Do you believe homeopathic treatments work?

November 26, 2009

BOOTSA panel of scientists and doctors has told MPs that treating patients with homeopathy on the NHS is unethical and a dubious use of public money, arguing that there is insufficient clinical evidence to support such treatments.

“If the NHS  commitment to evidence-based medicine is more than a lip service, then money has to be spent on treatments that are evidence-based, and homeopathy isn’t,” said Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medical school in Exeter, quoted in the Guardian.

Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like cures like” – in other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if it was taken in large amounts.

Homeopathic medicines are manufactured by repeatedly diluting and succussing (shaking) a preparation of the original substance, mainly plants and minerals, in water and alcohol. After dilution the medicine is added to lactose tablets or pillules, according to the Faculty of Homeopathy, a regulatory body established by parliament in 1950.

The NHS spends about 4 million pounds a year on homeopathy, the  group says.  There are four NHS homeopathic hospitals, which treat 55,000 patients a year, referred by GPs and NHS specialists.

More than 400 GPs treat 200,000 NHS patients a year with homeopathy.

While conventional drugs must undergo testing to prove their effectiveness, homeopathic remedies can be sold without being proven to work in clinical trials. They can be marketed for mild conditions if homeopathics agree on their effectiveness.

Scientists say the exemption should be removed because it is misleading.

Paul Bennett, Boots standards director, says the chemist will continue to stock homeopathic remedies.

“It’s about consumer choice and a large number of our customers think they work,” he said.

Do you believe homeopathic treatments work? Should they be available on the NHS?

9 comments

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It’s hardly a question of belief. The BBC sponsored a pretty conclusive double-blind test for Horizon some years ago.On the other hand, spending vast sums of public money on the placebo effect would not be the dumbest thing society has ever done. Most of these patients would probably claim that conventional medicines weren’t doing them any good, so the placebo may in fact be the cheapest option.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

A friend of mine was a homeopath. When diagnosed with cancer, she self-treated refusing conventional treatment, until it was too late for conventional medicine to help her. She died.

Posted by Ian Eiloart | Report as abusive

“Belief” should play no part in medicine – it either works or it doesn’t. It’s not a religion.The idea that water can remember what has been put into it (then diluted out of it) if you “shake it” right is bizarre. The notion that the water then only bothers to remember the beneficial properties of the non-existent active ingredient but never remembers any dangerous properties – so there can be no detrimental side effects from arsenic or anything – is well beyond bizarre. That this “happy” memory is then transferred to sugar pills is, well, you work it out.I can see why “belief” is so important in a treatment like this – because reality is abandoned at step one.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

Dara O’Briain sums it up pretty well:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIaV 8swc-fo

Posted by edb | Report as abusive

Scientists/Allopathics doctors being unable to find a method to prove, how homeopthic medicine works and produces results is not big reason to abondon homeopathy.It not uncommon to see teh odern medical fraternity calling other systems of medicine and treatment irrational, because any alternative poses grave threat to huge and thriving industry.The methods used to prove the efficacy of modern medication are no fool proof. ( If one reads the prescription information of many blocbuster drugs one may nevr take it, that is why it for doctors reference only).New methods need to be found to prove efficacy of homeopathy.Leaving out grave cases , i feel homeopathy provides simple cost effective treatment for some basic ans seasonal illness that we face on daily basis.This of course threatens the revenues of two strongly entrenched business namely pharma, hospitals, and doctors. No wonder they are so unwilling to accept situation where a system of medicine that progressively improves the immune system from gaining popularity.Recent pandemics have shown how Homeopathy can help cope with this kid of disasters. Itworht spengng money in developing better methods to prove homeopathy.

what’s the question?? , does homeopathy ACTUALLY work or do i BELIEVE homeopathy works?? well, in short, no it doesn’t ACTUALLY work, but if people THINK it does then as per comments previously it’s clearly cheaper to push bottled water and sugar pills and than fork out for expensive drugs.

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

I can say that when my wife was suffering with mercury poisoning (relating to removal of a large filling – although the dentist denied it), the GP was unable to recommend anything other than steroids (to address several of the symptoms).But it was cured in the end following a recommendation from a chiropractor using two products one of which was labelled ‘homeopathic’. Whether it was truly homeopathic in the traditional sense, I don’t really know. Trouble is that there can be a bit of a fuzzy line between ‘homeopathic’ and ‘herbal’.I’d fully support ‘herbal’ remedies & ‘chiropractic’ being available on the NHS. I’ve found both to be very effective, and as far as I’m aware, numerous studies show that much money (& possibly lives too) could be saved by using these things as alternatives to drugs & surgery.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

There is no doubt homeopathy works and it is not a matter of belief.The questions arise when it is quoted out of context. The homeopathic system follows looking at individual patient and his symptoms. In epidemics, major sympotms are similar but individual reaction would call for one main remedy followed by specific remedy to complete cure requiring trained doctor. As such, offering advise over internet does not help people or homeopathy.There are many people around the world who prefer homeopathic treatment for minor or major illness. Many are cured and continue with this method of treatment for their future illness. Many are not and move to alternate treatment method. This is true with Allopathy also. The reason could be the doctor himself.Homeopathy is cost effective and offers cure for many but not ALL dieases. This is true for any other method also.

Posted by Iqbal K Zutshi | Report as abusive

Naturopath (n.):”A person who believes that their patient is not only likely to get well anyway, but is also a damned fool”

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive