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Tuesday 23 February 2010

You are here: Parliament Home Page > Parliamentary Committees > Commons Science and Technology Committee > S&T Homeopathy inquiry
Committee Home Page

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.


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  

Page updated: 22/02/2010 10:39


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British pharmacy chain withdraws homeopathic claims from shelves.
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2011, 01:35:42 AM »

Consumer Health Digest #11-44
December 29, 2011

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by
Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D. It
summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement
actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and
nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer
protection and consumer decision-making.


British pharmacy chain withdraws homeopathic claims from shelves.

Boots, a major UK pharmacy chain, has stopped displaying information
about the purposes of the homeopathic products they sell. The action
was taken after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory
Agency (MHRA) upheld a complaint that Boots's point-of-sale
advertising contained prohibited information. This advertising, found
in many stores, consisted of a book of flip cards that listed
indications, symptoms, and homeopathic products. The MHRA ruled that
the products were not licensed with indications because the MHRA's
Simplified Rules Scheme for homeopathic products prohibits stating
the purposes for which they can be used. [Boots told to stop making
medical claims for pills with no active ingredient. The Nightingale
Collaboration Web Site, December 2011]

The MHRA's proposed policy document, Homeopathic medicines: Guidance
for advertising, is posted at


Blog examines whether pharmacists should sell homeopathic products.

Scott Gavura, who operates Science-Based Pharmacy, is a Canadian
pharmacist who believes that it is unethical for pharmacists to sell,
promote, or encourage the sale or use of homeopathy.
[Homeopathy: To sell or not to sell? Pharmacists weigh in, Nov 30, 2011]

The posted comments from other pharmacists include:

**"Selling a preparation which is known not to work would be exactly
the same . . . . as the same Pharmacist going out the back, filling a
bottle with water from the tap and selling it to the customer. . . .
If you don't think that there is an ethical problem, give it to the
customer for free, after all it cost next to nothing to prepare."

**"I've seen Oscillococcinium on the shelf at Shoppers Drug Mart,
right next to 'real' cold and flu medications. There was no
indication (that an unsuspecting member of the public would spot)
that there was any difference between the homeopathic sugar pills and
the real medicines. If I didn't know better, I might well pick up the
pseudo-medicine ('no side effects!') and waste my money. Worse, if my
cold got better right away, as many colds do, I might become
convinced that it worked and seek out homeopathic treatment for more
serious illnesses in future. That, I think, is the real danger in
pharmacists selling homeopathy: it is a gateway drug to more serious
rejection of real medical treatment. It's a slippery slope form
harmless cold non-remedies to quack cancer treatments."


Alleged stem scammers charged.

Three men have been arrested for their participation in a scheme to
manufacture, distribute and sell to the public stem cells and stem
cell procedures that were not FDA-approved: Francisco Morales, of
Brownsville, Texas; Alberto Ramon, of Del Rio, Texas; and Vincent
Dammai, of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Lawrence Stowe, of Dallas,
Texas, also charged in relation to this case, is considered a
fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. The
defendants allegedly conspired to commit mail fraud and unlawfully
distributed stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.
[Federal Indictments Lead to Arrests in Stem Cell Case, U.S. Attorney's Office
news release, Dec 28, 2011]

  According to the indictments:

**The defendants distributed and used stems cells produced from
umbilical cord blood treat persons suffering from cancer, amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS) and other serious

**From 2007 to 2010, Morales, who falsely represented that he was a
licensed physician in the United States, operated the Rio Valley
Medical Clinic in Brownsville, Texas, but would travel to Mexico to
perform the stem cell procedures on his patients.

**Stowe, who sometimes pretended to be a doctor, operated The Stowe
Foundation and Stowe Biotherapy Inc., through which he promoted and
marketed stem cells and other unapproved drug and biological products
for the treatment of cancer, ALS, MS and Parkinson's disease.

**The stem cells referenced in the indictment were created and
manufactured from umbilical cord blood obtained from birth mothers
who were patients of Ramon-a licensed midwife who operated The
Maternity Care Clinic in Del Rio, Texas.

**Ramon sold the cord blood to Global Laboratories, in Scottsdale,
Arizona, which sent the tissue to Dammai-a professor of pathology and
laboratory medicine in Charleston, S.C.

**Without obtaining approval, Dammai used university facilities to
create stem cells that were later sold by Global Laboratories.

**The defendants received more than $1.5 million from patients
suffering from incurable diseases.

Last April, CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a hard-hitting undercover report
about the defendants' activities. [21st century snake oil: "60
Minutes" cameras expose medical con men who prey on dying victims.
CBS News, April 18, 2010] Two indictments are posted on Casewatch,
one for Morales, Ramon, and Dammai
, and the other for Stowe and Morales.


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Consumer Advocate
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Telephone: (919) 533-6009 (health fraud and quackery) (under construction) (under construction) (guide to autism) (under construction) (legal archive) (chelation therapy) (guide to chiropractic) (under construction) (guide to dental care) (under construction) (under construction) (guide to fibromyalgia -- under construction) (guide to homeopathy) (guide to reliable information) (under construction) (guide to infomercials) (under construction) (multi-level marketing) (naturopathy) (under construction) (nutrition facts and fallacies) (under construction) (National Council Against Health Fraud archive) (consumer health sourcebook)

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« Last Edit: December 31, 2011, 01:52:42 AM by ama »
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