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Science and Technology Committee

Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy


Report published

The Committee published 'Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy', HC 45, its Fourth Report of Session 2009-10, on Monday 22 February 2010. The report included the oral and written evidence. 

MPS URGE GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW NHS FUNDING AND MHRA LICENSING OF HOMEOPATHY

In a report published today, the Science and Technology Committee concludes that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy. It also concludes that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy. As they are not medicines, homeopathic products should no longer be licensed by the MHRA.

The Committee carried out an evidence check to test if the Government’s policies on homeopathy were based on sound evidence. The Committee found a mismatch between the evidence and policy. While the Government acknowledges there is no evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect (where a patient gets better because of their belief in the treatment),  it does not intend to change or review its policies on NHS funding of homeopathy.

The Committee concurred with the Government that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.

The Committee concluded-given that the existing scientific literature showed no good evidence of efficacy-that further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified.

In the Committee’s view, homeopathy is a placebo treatment and the Government should have a policy on prescribing placebos. The Government is reluctant to address the appropriateness and ethics of prescribing placebos to patients, which usually relies on some degree of patient deception. Prescribing of placebos is not consistent with informed patient choice-which the Government claims is very important-as it means patients do not have all the information needed to make choice meaningful.

Beyond ethical issues and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, prescribing pure placebos is bad medicine. Their effect is unreliable and unpredictable and cannot form the sole basis of any treatment on the NHS.

The report also examines the MHRA licensing regime for homeopathic products.  The Committee is particularly concerned over the introduction of the National Rules Scheme (NRS) in 2006, as it allows medical indications on the basis of study reports, literature and homeopathic provings and not on the basis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) - the normal requirement for medicines that make medical claims.

The MHRA’s user-testing of the label for Arnica Montana 30C-the only product currently licensed under the NRS-was poorly designed, with some parts of the test little more than a superficial comprehension test of the label and other parts actively misleading participants to believe that the product contains an active ingredient.

The product labelling for homeopathic products under all current licensing schemes fails to inform the public that homeopathic products are sugar pills containing no active ingredients. The licensing regimes and deficient labelling lend a spurious medical legitimacy to homeopathic products.

The Chairman of the Committee, Phil Willis MP, said:

"This was a challenging inquiry which provoked strong reactions. We were seeking to determine whether the Government’s policies on homeopathy are evidence based on current evidence. They are not.

"It sets an unfortunate precedent for the Department of Health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homeopathy works is 'evidence' enough to continue spending public money on it. This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences. We await the Government's response to our report with interest.”


Terms of Reference

In preparation for the establishment of the Science and Technology Committee on 1 October, the former IUSS Committee commissioned work to assess the Government's use of evidence in policy-making. The Committee wrote to the Government on a number of topics and asked two questions: (1) What is the policy? (2) On what evidence is the policy based? The Government has now replied and having considered the responses the Committee has selected Homeopathy for its second Evidence Check.

The Committee invited short submissions on the following issues:

- Government policy on licensing of homeopathic products 
- Government policy on the funding of homeopathy through the NHS
- the evidence base on homeopathic products and services.

 


Oral evidence

 

Previous sessions:

Monday 30 November 2009
Mr Mike O'Brien QC MP, Minister for Health Services, Department of Health;
Professor David Harper CBE, Director General, Health Improvement and Protection, and Chief Scientist, Department of Health; 
Professor Kent Woods, Chief Executive, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

Wednesday 25 November 2009 
Professor Jayne Lawrence, Chief Scientific Adviser, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain;
Robert Wilson, Chairman, British Association of Homeopathic Manufacturers;
Paul Bennett, Professional Standards Director, Boots;
Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science;
Dr Ben Goldacre, Journalist.
Dr Peter Fisher, Director of Research, Royal London Homeopathic Hospital;
Professor Edzard Ernst, Director, Complementary Medicine Group, Peninsula Medical School;
Dr James Thallon, Medical Director, NHS West Kent;
Dr Robert Mathie, Research Development Adviser, British Homeopathic Association.

 


Written evidence

 

Homeopathy written evidence 

 


Press notices

 

20/10/09 Inquiry announced  
11/02/10 Report to be published 
22/02/10 Report published 

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Replies to This Discussion

This is the same old same old....where the big pharma are doing whatever they can to stop the real medicine, homeopathy, chiropathy , osteopathy and acupuncture from being the choice of people who have the right to choose...their own modality of healing...and to support the people's wishes as opposed to line the pockets of the military-industrial-pharmaceutical-monsanto-poisonous complex.
There needs to be some sort of peoples petition against this insanity....plants are medicine, laboratory chemicals like vaccinations and pharmaceuticals are not.
They are doing everything they can to wipe out the traditional ways..and traditional peoples who steward the sacred in Nature
The report needs to be read carefully, as it is cleverly written but , there are contradictions. The main premise it makes is that homeopathy is placebo. In order to make this point "We have set out the issue of efficacy and effectiveness at some length to illustrate that a non-efficacious medicine might, in some situations, be effective (patients feel better) because of the placebo effect. That is why we put more weight on evidence of efficacy than of effectiveness. p16" and
"patient satisfaction may be relevant to the consideration of the effectiveness of treatments in the real world, rather than efficacy, but its main contribution would be to identify that research may be needed to establish whether there is a real effect. p17 So, the committee say effectiveness shows the need for further research (they rule that out further in the report) but efficacy needs RCT's. As this is a model for testing drugs, not remedies, we can see it as inappropriate, but the committee insist that is the only evidence they will accept. Any other benefit is placebo.
The report has many statements about placebo and these statements shows that there is effectiveness evidence homeopathy works. So the committee put this effectiveness down as placebo, in order to explain 'how' it works, diminish its effectiveness and undermine its credibility. However, in doing so, the committee have effectively redefined placebo. The Concise Oxford English dictionary (2005) placebo -"a substance that has no medicinal effect," (medicinal, - "having healing properties")
By this definition a placebo cannot heal, therefore if healing is seen it cannot be by placebo. So, if homeopathy is effective, (but not efficacious) it cannot be placebo. This is all we have to prove, that homeopathy is not placebo, and the whole premise of the report is undermined. Animal studies can show homeopathy is not placebo, and the link from Liz in the chat - http://www.cancerdecisions.com/content/view/414/2/lang,english/
- thanks Liz, is what we need to be publicising.
Currently the UK press are having a field day, pushing the headlines, but they have read neither the report, or the evidence. If we want to refute it, we need to do both. Incidentally, one member of the committee disassociated himself from the report today.
The report begins "This inquiry was an examination of the evidence behind government policies on homeopathy, not an inquiry into homeopathy. We do not challenge the intentions of those homeopaths who strive to cure patients, nor do we question that many people feel they have benefited from it. Our task was to determine whether scientific evidence supports government policies that allow the funding and provision of homeopathy through the NHS and the licensing of homeopathic products by the MHRA. page 7. "The evidence behind government policy, not a report into homeopathy", (however, that is what it has turned out to be,) but it is the reason they didn't talk to homeopaths or patients. So, we don't need conspiracy theories thrown into the public arena, or defensive anecdotal evidence, just logical and critical examination of the report, and evidence of the effectiveness of treatment with homeopathy that cannot be attributed to placebo. Sorry, I've gone on a bit, I've been taking this report apart all day!
Hi Anne,
YES to everything you are saying - I am here another sleepless night working out strategy! We need to weather this week of media frenzy and put some solid plans into action. I hope it was my MP who distanced himself from the report - he worked hard to try to make amendments but was overruled - he is now being trashed by bloggers for being 'duped' by my hard lobbying!!! I can't even claim much credit - I did meet with him and wrote some strong letters to the S and T committee through him, but he's open to CAMs in general and was part of the group working on regulation for acupuncturists.
Hope to see you at the lobby of parliament on Wednesday.
Carol
Dear Anne,

Have you noticed the link that I posted in the chat window - when you asked about animal studies?

I repost my comment here for you:
To Homeopathy resource team;

I thought that this was a very good trial design that can account for many problems that have been pointed out in relation to the use of blinded trials of homeopathic treatment.

“Homeopathy in dogs pilot indicates need for larger clinical trial

Results from a small, rigorously designed, research study at the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Science have pointed the way towards a larger clinical trial of homeopathy for the treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an itchy, chronic, skin disease that can affect humans and animals such as dogs. Twenty dogs were recruited to the study from the referral sample seen in the veterinary dermatology clinic at the University.

Dogs were diagnosed with non-seasonal atopic dermatitis and those entering the study had positive reactions to multiple allergens to confirm the diagnosis. Some dogs continued to receive conventional drugs. This category included dogs that had residual, stable and persistent pruritus (itching) despite receiving glucocorticoids, ciclosporin or allergen-specific immunotherapy.

The dogs were prescribed individualised homeopathic medicines by vet John Hoare. Two months after starting the treatment, the owners of 15 of the dogs reported no improvement. However, owners of the other five dogs reported pruritus scores that were at least 50 per cent improved compared to their pets’ score at recruitment. One of the five dogs improved by 100 per cent and needed no further treatment.

The other four dogs that responded well in this first phase were then put forward into a blinded randomised trial in which they received their homeopathic prescription at some times and placebo at other times. The three dogs that completed this phase of the study improved more with the active remedy than with placebo, and owners were able to distinguish correctly which pill was which.

Dr Peter Hill, who was lead clinician on the study, said “These preliminary data indicate the need for a large randomised controlled trial of homeopathy in canine atopic dermatitis.”

Dr Robert Mathie, Research Development Adviser at the British Homeopathic Association, who collaborated in the study, added “We hope that many of the country’s veterinary schools and other specialist referral centres might participate in a multi-centre trial.”

The team reports its results in the March 21 2009 issue of Veterinary Record (Volume 164, Issue 12).

http://www.vetschool.bris.ac.uk/
what did the homoeopathic doctors community do for this? did anyone attented the enquiry/ did anyone has any proof of treatments before and after?
I read the report. It seems these people's rear ends are bashing their brains out and they would like nothing better than to infect society with the same malaise.
There's no question this "evidence check" was contrived to belittle homeopathy. One of the best tools in the art of deception is to popularize a label (in this case "placebo") as a substitution for the complex nature of a subject. One of the deceptive tools that was used to gloss over the inhumanity of the slave trade, for example, was the denial that the subjects were "human". The deceptive tool that was used to deny suffrage for women was the legal and perceptive reality that they were not "persons".
This report is a veiled attempt at seeming to be logical, but it substitutes findings of fact for substantiated facts.
To say that the definition of "scientific evidence" relies on the RCT method alone is a value judgment. RCT methodology is full of flaws and drawbacks, but like conventional medicine, it's the best they seem to be able to do based on their theoretical approach -- the contrary to "like cures like".
So what sums up the converse? Opposites cure opposites.
Homeopathic theory illustrates that opposites suppress opposites, they don't cure them. Conventional medicine is the proof: there is no actual attempt at cure even taking place. Homeopathy is the only discipline that can explain why this is, and will always be, the case.
Then this committee goes on to state another subjective finding that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory that "like cures like" based on references to chemistry. Chemistry is not the only field connected with the existence of life: if it were, we would be able to dump a pile of chemicals in a bucket and produce living beings.
We have seen the results of pharmaceutical chemistry. The result is one step forward and three steps back -- one desired effect and three we don't want... oops!
This "evidence check" is a glowing example of how people with a preconceived agenda can contrive to create the results they were determined to have from the outset.
As Dad used to say: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh*t."
Whilst I agree with what has been said above, in an age of soundbites, we need to learn to be brief!

In response to the placebo issue we have to reply:
Can animals, infants, plants and cells in petri dishes respond to a placebo?
No they can't, but they can respond to homeopathy.

Moreover, 65% of treatments offered on the NHS have doubtful clinical evidence of benefit (http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/about/knowledge.jsp) and iatrogenic disease is still a leading cause of death (http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/284/4/483)

And most of all, we must thank the denialists for publicising so widely that homeopathy is even available on the NHS! I've been trying to do this for years and never been as successful as they have. How can the public defend something they don't know exists! At least now they have a chance, not only to defend it but to demand it!

You may want to circulate this leaflet, or something like it: How to get homeopathy on the NHS by Steve Scrutton: http://www.1023homeopathy.org.uk/uploads/3/5/0/8/3508775/homeopathy...

I hope to see you all tomorow at the loby of parliament!
here here jenny!!!
Did you get to see Glenda Jackson in the end? Three of us are going to see Frank Dobson MP next week as he was busy yesterday.
she was only available to see one person, and we couldn't find that person to go in and see her - i don't even know if she saw that one. we waited until about 5pm and then headed home. i can't see her at our local surgery next week, but will try to go to one of the other surgeries the week after - i think she will be in gospel oak in the next two weeks. i did write her several emails, and requested that she sign the early day motion on our behalf. i'll email you a copy of what i wrote to her. i spoke to someone who thought she would now be sympathetic to us (she wasn't before apparently)...
There is a saying that was once highly promoted, "Better Living Through Chemistry!" I never believed a word of it.
HOMOEOPATHY NOT A PLACEBO

It has become a regular feature calling Homeopathic PILL a Placebo, WHY THIS LIKING by few PREJUDICE researches towards the Homeopathic system of Medicine, in mind a doubt arises, are they against or are they being hired and paid to write something against a system of medicine founded by a qualified medical personnel Dr S.Hahneman more than 200 years ago , which hold GOOD even today It is becoming stronger day by day, its the third most popular system of medicine not only in India but world over,90% of doctors in Scotland favor Homeopathy(as published in the present article),a system which from a self taught science now being taught up to postgraduate level in regular colleges duly recognized by the universities.
Homeopathy is showing a upward trend in popularity and market by its own growth based on strong scientific base and results ,its popularity speaks the truth, the market in India is worth more than 600 crores rupees, the medicine are not only dispensed in charitable institutions, there are Government Homeopathic Hospitals , Dispensaries, there are corporate Hospitals treating patients .
Dr S.Hahnemann combined in himself a Physician, a Pharmacologist,a Pharmacist, in fact he was his own Columbus in every field of Medicine . Beside being discover of Homeopathic System of medicine he was justifiably be styled as 'Father of Experimental Pharmacology' as he was the first to ascertain the positive effects of Drugs on HEALTHY MAN.

The Common round sugar Homoeopathic pills made of pure cane sugar in various sizes since 200 years are now being prepared since few years by the leading ALLOPATHIC Pharmaceuticals being used in their latest drugs ,the raw material, the method of its manufacturing is the same .
Placebo is defined as unmedicated substance looks like a medicated one and is commonly called Dummy by the Scientist or in pharmaceuticals term
In Homeopathy we use the widest range of substances which are tested and prepared according to official Pharmocoepias.
A insight of the range of substances used in the manufacturing of Homoeopathic medicine, would give the depth of the scientific work done ; List below gives you the insight of the range of substances being used in the manufacturing of Homoeopathic Medicines

1.Common table salt to deadly poison Arsenic salts
2.Common Cockroach to most poisonous Cobra snake venom
3Most filthy Diseased tissue product to healthy tissue product
4 Metals Alumina to Gold and silver
5Drugs Cannabis sativa to Opium
6Common Onion to Tobaccos
7 common egg shell to Charcoal
8.Nitric acid to Mercury
9Pencillin to Insulin
10/Iron to Uranium nitricum
11 Lusan grass Medigo sativa (Alfa Alfa) to Deadly poison Aconite nap
12Glonine to Platinum
13Skimmed milk to Dogs milk
14 Saliva of rabid dog to pus of Tuberculosis abscess
15 Tulsi (Occimum s) to Neem ( Azad indica)
Its a long long very long range and do not need sophisticated instruments to prove its presence , yes we do have such instrument s to test their presence in our products at our Homoeopathic Pharmacoepia Laboratory a Government of India institution at Ghazi bad.
The method of procuring, processing and preparing Homeopathic Medicines are clearly mentioned in our Pharmcoepias.
The first Homoeopathic Pharmacoepia was published by Dr C.Casport (Leipzig Germany) in 1825.
In 1870 the first British Homeopathic Pharmacoepia was published in London
In 1897 American Homeopathic pharmacoepia was published by Otis’s clap & sons
In 1901 Homoeopathic Pharmacoepia of United states the latest has been published in 1964
In 1941 German Homoeopathic Pharmacoepia was compiled by Von Willmar Schwa be
In 1971 Homeopathic Pharmacoepia of India was published to date 7 volume are in the market by Government of India.
Let the people stop dreaming to prove that Homoeopathic system of medicine or pill is placebo, its rightly said Eyes see what mind perceives.
Let a visit be arranged to the Homoepathic Pharmaceuticals company for these scientists, let them see for themselves the ingredients used , let them personally do the potentisation/Trituration and let them explain what happens during this process of trituration from 1x to 12x.
Rtn Dr S.K.vashisht

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