Medicine

England’s National Health Service cracks down on homeopathy pseudoscience

The consensus among scientific researchers is that the practice of homeopathy is bogus. Now, England’s National Health Service agrees, saying that the practice is “at best a placebo” and that it’s a “waste of money.”

According to the BBC, the NHS hopes to save £200 million a year in what it also called a “misuse of scarce” funds of treatments that are proven to be ineffective.

The move is likely to get some pushback in England, where around 39% percent of the population thinks it’s a viable form of treatment. The practice first came to prominence in the 18th Century and claims that a substance that causes symptoms of a disease in healthy people can cure sick people if administered in diluted amounts. Numerous studies have shown homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo.

In its new guidance published on their website, the NHS says homeopathy is of “low clinical effectiveness” adding that doctors “should not initiate homeopathic items for any new patent” and to “support prescribers in deprescribing homeopathic items in all patients.”

Last year 1.1 billion prescription items were dispensed in primary care at a cost of £9.2 billion. This growing cost coupled with finite resources means it is important that the NHS achieves the greatest value from the money that it spends. We know that across England there is significant variation in what is being prescribed and to whom. Often patients are receiving medicines which have been proven to be ineffective or in some cases dangerous, and/or for which there are other more effective, safer and/or cheaper alternatives.

But as Davis G. McAfee points out in Patheos, the NHS’s report conveys a more urgent message: homeopathy is dangerous, but not “directly.”

“…but a patient who takes homeopathic medicine is likely avoiding real medical treatment, making the problem much worse,” McAfee writes. “There’s a long list of people who have died because they didn’t take proper medicine, choosing homeopathic remedies instead.”

“Despite the fact that many people in England believe in homeopathy, it isn’t supported by the science, and the government shouldn’t waste money on it,” McAfee continued. “The vast majority of experts agree, and it’s time to take their advice.”

Featured image via The Economist 

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