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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

Hello Dr. Vashisht,

Thanks so much for this post, and ouch! are you saying that the allopathic and pharma industry is poisoning the sugar globules that are used to make homeopathic medicine in pellets? Since how long has this been going on?
As to your recommendation on showing these folks who would like to nuke us all with their chemicals maybe this is not such a good idea to reveal secrets of the true homeopathic physicians and practitioners?
Thanks for joining in on the conversation here...
Barbara ~ I do not think Dr Vashist meant to say that the pharmacies are poisoning the neutral pellets. I am thinking he meant that now, even the allopathic pharmacies are producing sugar pills to be used a placebo. Maybe he can clarify his statement.

Dr Vashist ~ thank you for stating the vast array of remedy substances and their viability as potent healing substances. To explain the the layperson how homeopathic remedies are produced would be eye-opening experience. I believe seeing and feeling is believing.
Yes you are right, they are using globules no 5 (they call pellets), to manufacture retard action or so called slow release medicine in capsule form, you can see globules of different color in a capsule which probably dissolve and release the medicament
I said allopathic pharmaceuticals are using the Homoeopathic globules manufacturing them in the same way as we do, they call them pellets made up of pure cane sugar, if you closely observe these pellet they are globules in 5 size
very well said dr.,probably they dont know how these medicnes are made.nice thought
Dr Vashisht
you are right when you raise the question why do not these people with "PLACEBO PHOBIA"as i consider them, go and see for themselves how these medicines are manufactured.We know seeing is believing.
I
I am also critical about these BIG HOMEOPATHIC PHARMA such as Schawbe,Boiron,Dolisos, Heel and many others who have been doing this work for more than 100 years in some cases are not raising their voices and joining the common people fighting for survival of Homeopathy.

After all they are there because their medicines are selling.And claim of research and marketing will take them where? They survive because Homeopathy lives;;

Let them join hands and fight for the pretty face of homeopathy which the vested interest are maligning.
yesterday (weds) at least 250 people turned up to parliament to lobby their mp's. unfortunately, because it was prime ministers question time, all the mp's were in the commons and not available to see constituents for part of the afternoon, and those that had made a previous appointment with their mp were most likely to be seen and heard. in spite of that, many people did get to speak to their mp, and there does seem to be some support for homeopathy.

given it is an election year, and mp's have already suffered huge scandal's in the past 12 months, this issue may be put on the back burner for awhile (it is to be hoped). if that happens, we have more time to try and get more support, perhaps by insisting that our vote in the election will depend on support for homeopathy?

luckily, there is an influential mp called david treddinick who has started an early day motion to cause the evidence check to be looked at again, and it is very important that everyone lobby their mp and apply pressure on them to sign it.

also, thank you to carol for what looks like alot of work she has put into this. carol, do you know about hmc21 and the work that william alderson has done? anne waters' comments are along similar lines.

it is urgent that homeopaths around the world work together and present a united front against these attacks on homeopathy. thanks to all who are working hard to support our case!
"it is urgent that homeopaths around the world work together and present a united front against these attacks on homeopathy. thanks to all who are working hard to support our case!"
Thanks Jennifer for this and it is not only homeopathic medicine for humans they are attacking, it is also homeopathy for the soil, or any kind of medicine that will help any little thing that wants to live with vital forces, this very same thing is happening with Biodynamic farming and Demeter trademarks and so on and so forth. They want everything nuked and sterile...I know the story here from the ground up with Monsanto and the likes of them...We need a global petition, can we get one going here Debby and I hope you got my morning email where I asked you about getting facebook and twitter on our website....Blessings All
Glenda Jackson was apparently available at some point to speak to people, but I couldn't find you at that moment! In passing, I spoke to Peter Hain MP (Conservative) who had been the Secretaty of State for Northern Ireland when they did the Get Well UK pilot project there that Mike O'Brien mistakenly said in the oral evidence did not include homeopathy, when it did. I asked Hain if he would raise this issue with O'Brian and publicly make a statement correcting that fact. He said he would not but that he would be trying to influence the government response to the report and is trying to get the pilot project extended to Wales and England but is up against a lot of pharmaceutical opposition.
was it before or after i saw you? we waited outside for over an hour and a half to get in and when i saw you after 4pm, we had only been inside for a couple of minutes and her name wasn't announced. i tried three times to find out from the desk whether she would be available but was told i could wait until about 5.30 and after that her name was unlikely to be called. i left just after 5. you must have heard about it before we got in -how unfortunate!
peter hain is labour by the way, and he's in the cabinet - if you ever watch question time, he is always sat directly to the left of the prime minister in the front row. he is now secretary for wales (again - he was 'fired' from the job a few years ago but is now reinstated). i know about him from when i was working with getwelluk. it is shameful that he won't do more than you say, i have heard him say publicly in the past that he uses homeopathy almost exclusively with his family and especially his children. it goes to show how influential big pharma is, that someone like him is unwilling to do more than try to influence the government response - that's almost a non response. do you think he will at least sign the EDM? did he indicate whether he knew about it?
you know, he has never been involved enough if you think about it. he could have done more to get the northern ireland pilot to get through - pharma obviously scares him alot.... (i suppose rightfully so...)
It was after I saw you. In any case, I see that you are going to visit her soon at her surgery. That's what I'm doing with two others with Frank Dobson MP. (Thanks for the correction re Hain being Lab). I'll let you know if I can find anyone else who can go with you to see Jackson. I'm off to get some sleep now!
Hi Jennifer,

If by Carol you mean me thanks for your encouragement - I was at the lobby - the one with the camera doing interviews - will post on here when it's on line. Yes I know William - have been working alongside - and believe me there's a lot going on right now behind the scenes working out strategy!
Watch out for action postings!
Carol

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