Choose homeopathy if you want but don’t make us pay
09 November, 2017
• I AM not surprised by the number of people responding angrily to my October 26 letter suggesting that the NHS should stop funding homeopathic and natural remedies, because there is no evidence to show that they work or offer patients any benefits (Homeopathy is a nonsense).
I won’t reiterate my arguments as to why homeopathy and natural medicines don’t work, but I must say that I am not “prejudiced” against homeopathy; like the NHS, I simply ask that all medicines have to be shown to work in properly-run tests.
New medicines are examined in “double-blind testing” where neither the person taking the medicine nor those administering the test know whether the pills issued contain the medicine under test or not.
In analysing the results, “feeling better” can then be linked to whether the patient in question had the drug or not. The results must show a significant difference between the two groups; if most patients in both groups “feel better”, that would suggest the drug being tested does nothing, so it would fail to gain approval.
In reality, of course, the tests look for more than patients reporting feeling better: blood tests and others are used to show what the medicine has done!
No such double-blind tests have been done with homeopathic or natural medicines, so there is not a shred of real evidence that they work.
Even the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, which is more supportive of homeopathy, says: “any specific mechanism of action based on extreme dilution is implausible and regarded as unsupportable by the majority of scientists working in this field”’.
As a result all those responding can only offer anecdotal evidence to support their use: “I felt I had my life back”; “I used a homeopathic cream… which solved the problem”; “it stopped chronic tonsillitis when I was a child”; and so on. That is hearsay, not evidence.
The one semi-reasoned response from William Alderson, co-founder of Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, who claimed that a study of 6,544 patients at the NHS Bristol Homeopathic Hospital found 70.7 per cent of them reported benefit from homeopathy (Homeopathy is cheap, safe, and effective and patients should have the right to choose it, November 2).
But this lacks the scientific rigour need for supporting the continued use of this approach. As I said above, asking people if they “feel better” is simply not good enough!
In any case this study was done from November 1997 to October 2003 and things have since moved on: according to Wikipedia, as of October 2015 the Bristol hospital will no longer be offering homeopathic treatments.
Their annual homeopathy budget exceeded £200,000 in previous years, so in the intervening 12 years, the Bristol hospital had wasted £2.4million on the useless treatments!
Of course, people should be free to choose. But, as a taxpayer, I want the NHS to make sure the choices offered are safe, proven to be beneficial, and as affordable as possible.
I am happy for people to use homeopathy: “it’s cheap, safe and effective”, Mr Anderson claims, but please don’t ask us taxpayers to pay for it.
Eton Avenue, NW3