Homoeopathy unscientific, bad medicine: British panel

Homoeopathy unscientific, bad medicine: British panel

The Science and Technology committee said homoeopathic products are not medicines and should no longer be licensed by medicines regulators. Homoeopathy producers should not be allowed to make medical claims on product labels without evidence, it added.

The panel accused the government of sending out mixed messages about homoeopathic remedies by saying that while there is no evidence to back them, they can still be paid for by Britain’s public National Health Service (NHS).

“It sets an unfortunate precedent for the department of health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homoeopathy works is ‘evidence’ enough to continue spending public money on it,” committee chairman Phil Willis said in a statement. “This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences.”

In its report on homoeopathy, the panel agreed with the government that evidence shows homoeopathy is not efficacious — meaning it works no better than a placebo, or dummy pill. “Explanations for why homoeopathy would work are scientifically implausible,” the report said. Critics say the homoeopathy industry has made millions out of selling little more than “sugar pills” to vulnerable patients.

Paula Ross, chief executive of the Society of Homoeopaths, rejected the findings and accused the committee of wasting public money by turning its inquiry from one on the government’s policy on homoeopathy to one about whether homeopathy works — a question she said the committee was ill-equipped to answer. “We would have preferred to see the government put money into much needed research into how actually homoeopathy works,” she said. She argued that evidence shows homeopathy is effective beyond placebo, but “scientists have yet to understand how”.

The panel said homoeopathy was “a placebo treatment” and the government should have a policy on placebos — an area it said ministers were reluctant touch because prescribing placebos “usually relies on some degree of patient deception”.

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