Homeopathy treatments- biologically implausible and damaging
Homeopathic treatments funded by the NHS are “biologically implausible” and risk damaging patients’ health by discouraging them from getting proper treatment, a leading researcher has claimed.Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, said homeopathic remedies had not been proven to work in clinical trials.
People who still maintain the treatments are effective are “ignoring or misrepresenting the best evidence available”, he added.
Homeopathy could even be dangerous because it is sometimes used instead of scientifically proven medical procedures such as immunisations, he added.
Prof Ernst, a former homeopathist, is an outspoken critic of unproven treatments provided on the NHS. He once labelled the Prince of Wales a “snake-oil salesman” because of his support for “unproven and disproved” medicine.
The NHS spends about £4 million a year on homeopathy, which is based on the theory that patients can be cured through exposure to a diluted form of the substance that caused their symptoms.
Writing in The Biologist magazine Prof Ernst, now a professor of complementary medicine, said this belief “Is in contrast with the laws of physics, chemistry and pharmacology. Homeopathy is thus biologically implausible.”
He said: “Homeopathy could be (and often is) used as an alternative to effective interventions. For example, the advice from homeopaths not to immunise has become a major cause of low vaccination rates.”
The strategy of using homeopathy as a placebo can only work if doctors hide the truth from their patients, he added.
Homeopathists insist that the form of treatment is not suited to the design of conventional clinical trials because they do not take into account the benefit that many patients have been shown to experience in observational studies.
They say that the method of administering extremely diluted substances works by triggering the body’s natural healing systems, which can lessen symptoms and lead to eventual cures.
Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, said: “The UK spends billions of pounds every year ensuring that the new and existing conventional medicines we take are effective, safe and fit for purpose.
“It makes no sense to allow other treatments available through public expenditure to be made available without application of the same rigorous standards. That is what is happening with homeopathic treatments. It needs to stop.”
Síle Lane of the Sense About Science campaign group added: “When a treatment like homeopathy is offered by the NHS, people will think the evidence for it has undergone the same level of scrutiny as conventional medicine.
“It misleads people into thinking there is something in it when there isn’t.”
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