Homeopathy wastes NHS money claim MPs
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said using public money on the highly-diluted homeopathy remedies could not be justified.
The cross-party group said there was no evidence beyond a placebo effect, when a patient gets better because of their belief that the treatment works.
But manufacturers and supporters of homeopathy disputed the report, saying the MPs had ignored important evidence.
It is thought about £4m a year is spent on homeopathy by the NHS, helping to fund four homeopathic hospitals in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow and numerous prescriptions.
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of treatment that uses highly diluted substances – sometimes so none of the original product is left – that are given orally in the belief that it will stimulate the body’s self-healing mechanism.
Supporters believe the remedies help relieve a range of minor ailments from bruising and swelling to constipation and insomnia.
But the MPs said homeopathy was basically sugar pills that only worked because of faith. In medicine it is recognised that some people will get better because they believe the treatment they take is going to work.
The MPs said the NHS should not fund treatments on this basis. They argued the effectiveness was often unpredictable and involved a deception by the medical establishment.
They also warned it could lead to a delay in diagnosis if symptoms were cured but the underlying reason for them was not tackled.
The MPs also criticised the drugs regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, for allowing medical claims to be made.
The bar for licensing for homeopathic remedies is not set as high as for medical treatments, partly because they have been used since the NHS was set up in 1948 before the current system of regulation was brought in.
Committee chairman Phil Willis said this approval and the fact they were funded by the NHS in the first place lent the remedies “a badge of authority that is unjustified”.
But the report acknowledged there was a public appetite for homeopathy with surveys showing satisfaction rates of above 70%.
The British Medical Association said it was concerned about NHS funds being used on homeopathy and called for an official review into its effectiveness.
Tags: BMA, Homeopathy, MPs, nhs cash shortages, NHS waste, Quangos