Homeopaths lose funding bid

Homeopaths in the UK have been knocked back in a bid to have NHS England continue to fund homeopathic preparations

NHS England had conducted a public consultation on 18 treatments which it considered to be “ineffective, over-priced and low-value” and which included homeopathy, herbal medicines and some dietary supplements.

After the consultation was concluded, it provided guidance to GPs and clinical commissioning groups to stop the “routine” prescribing of the treatments, hoping to save £141 million a year.

The consultation also examined opinions on more than 3000 prescription treatments which were also available over the counter, such as head lice treatments. A list of 35, minor, short-term conditions for which OTC medicines should not routinely be prescribed was hoped to save another £100 million annually.

Now, the England and Wales High Court has handed down a decision this week to uphold NHS England’s position.

The British Homeopathic Association mounted a legal challenge on four grounds to have the decision to stop funding homeopathic treatments overturned, claiming that the commissioner had not properly consulted on the proposed ban.

The BHA had claimed that the express and sole rationale for the consultation paper’s recommendation on homeopathy had been a 2010 report which it called “seriously unbalanced and inaccurate”.

Mr Justice Supperstone noted that NHS England had consulted on “its provisional view that there was no robust evidence that homeopathy actually works”.

He said there was no evidence of bias or a predetermined decision on the part of NHS England and dismissed the challenge.

The BHA has responded to the Court decision by claiming that the case highlights “how health bosses were unfairly manipulating the consultation process and making decisions about healthcare services without genuine patient engagement”.

NHS chief Simon Stevens welcomed the “decisive” decision “to kick out this costly and spurious legal challenge”.

“There is no robust evidence to support homeopathy which is at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds,” he said.

Read the full decision here.

Off the shelves

Meanwhile, in Canada, a pharmacy has attracted mainstream media attention and praise for stripping homeopathic products from the shelves.

Pharmacist and owner of Stone’s Drug Store in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, wrote on his blog that he had decided not to offer homeopathic preparations due to “a lack of clinical evidence about their effectiveness”.

“Concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of homeopathic products,” said Mr MacKenzie. “This led me to review the clinical evidence and I came to the conclusion that these products should no longer be sold at our pharmacy.”

“As a pharmacist, my first priority is to provide a wide range of safe and effective health products but if I do not have a professional comfort level with a certain product, I have a duty not to sell it,” said Mr MacKenzie.

“I do not see the removal of homeopathic products as restricting the range of choice for patients. Rather, it is an invitation to discuss their health care concerns and to review other options that may be more appropriate, cost-effective and successful for them.”

The decision has been warmly welcomed on Twitter.


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