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The availability of homeopathy on the NHS is important

I wonder if people such as Michael Marshall (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016;297:101), who would refuse patients the option of NHS homeopathic treatment, have considered the plight of people failed by evidence-based medicine? Where are those with chronic, disabling conditions to turn when the medicines available on the NHS do not work, or worse, are positively harmful?

Take the instance of a woman with multiple drug allergies who has no means of treating her severe inflammatory arthritis and no suitable analgesia. It has been demonstrated that disease states with immune system involvement are particularly susceptible to the placebo effect but how does one induce this? Current thinking precludes treatment with placebo medicines but it so happens that homeopathic remedies would appear, from the results of clinical trials, to be a good substitute. Used properly, there is a good chance that in this case homeopathic treatment may achieve a real therapeutic effect.

Patients who cannot tolerate allopathic treatment do not just go away because they cannot take the prescribed medicine. They suffer and surely deserve a better range of options than those provided by the current obsession with evidence-based medicine. The availability of homeopathic treatment is important and should not be denied until better alternatives become commonplace.

Jeanette Lindsay


Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201707

Readers' comments (7)

  • Michael Champion

    A fundamental principle of the NHS (Department of Health 2010) is the "provision of best-value for taxpayer's monies, and effective and sustainable use of finite resources". The use of public money on homeopathy when the service as a whole (including therapies with higher quantities and quality of supporting evidence) is undergoing wider efficiency measures is alarming and disheartening to those refused evidence based therapies by a CCG.

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  • This makes no sense at all.

    If proven medicine has failed some patients, then the solution is to analyse why, and address the reasons for the failure. Throwing them to the mercies of people with delusional beliefs in refuted 18th Century conjectures only perpetuates the delusions.

    Medical science has spent the best part of a century trying to discard cherished but wrong ideas. Homeopathy is one of these. It has the same place in medicine as purging or bloodletting to balance the humours. It is based on a completely incorrect theory of disease, and its core doctrines have been refuted since the 19th Century.

    Instead of promoting the nonsense that is homeopathy, it would make much more sense to work out how the plausible elements of the placebo effects it generates - such as longer consultation times - can be integrated into reality-based care.

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  • Homeopathy works. It is not placebo. And there should be Patient Choice, as promised by the Conservative Gov.

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  • Louise Mclean said:

    "Homeopathy works. It is not placebo."

    ...yet you provided no evidence for your assertions. What's an evidence-based pharmacist to make of that?

    "And there should be Patient Choice, as promised by the Conservative Gov."

    Perhaps you've not read the NHS constitution, particularly Principle 3?

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  • Absolutely and without question the NHS should be expanding its homeopathic services. No government or individual who wants to take advantage of safe, effective and inexpensive medical care could do better than to invest in homeopathy. With recorded, documented success spanning 200+ years of clinical use in hundreds of millions of people and with more and more scientific research showing its efficacy and lack of harm to patients it is the most valuable tool anyone could have in caring for their physical, emotional and mental health.

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  • Unfortunately there is sufficient evidence that homeopathy does not work and hence should not be funded by the NHS.

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  • Therapies that are inherently ineffective should not be funded by the NHS, regardless of how 'safe' they might be (on account of them being nothing more than water). Of course, when patients abandon potentially effective treatment for these kinds of treatments, it ceases to become a 'safe' option (see 'treatments' for malaria for example).

    There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that says homeopathy does not work any better than placebo. The very small remainder that purports to show efficacy is either down to pure chance or poor trial design (often both), a conclusion reached by the vast majority of the scientific community.

    I do sympathise with patients who do not respond to the usual treatment pathways, but we should be investing money into resolving that where possible, rather than burning money on therapies that have no scientific rationale.

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