Challenging misleading healthcare claims

The (further) decline of homeopathy on the NHS

As yet another World Homeopathy Awareness Week starts, we should be aware that it appears to be in terminal decline in the English NHS

A year ago, we reported on the decline in the number of English NHS prescriptions for homeopathy that were fulfilled in community pharmacies. This showed a steady decline over the previous 17 years, down to just 7.5% of the number in 1996, with each year fewer than the previous.

These data come from the Prescription Cost Analysis data for England provided by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the official source of data on the NHS.

My blog post, An idiot’s guide to understanding NHS homeopathy prescription data, gave the details of where these data came from and how to extract them so anyone could check for themselves.

The information is published annually and the data for 2014 have just been published.

So, has the decline of the previous 17 years been halted?

I've updated my charts to include the new data from 2014.

The decline of homeopathy in the NHS number of prescription items 2014

The decline of homeopathy on the NHS prescription costs 2014

The rising cost of homeopathy in the NHS 2014

The complete data for these charts are (all these figures can be verified from the original HSCIC data):

Year

Prescription

Items

Net Ingredient

Cost

Cost/item

1995

164,207

£816,798

£4.97

1996

172,013

£914,983

£5.32

1997

162,421

£937,311

£5.77

1998

157,063

£927,633

£5.91

1999

147,769

£888,274

£6.01

2000

134,164

£831,130

£6.19

2001

127,333

£807,125

£6.34

2002

117,989

£778,749

£6.60

2003

103,940

£714,938

£6.88

2004

94,501

£661,469

£7.00

2005

82,960

£593,316

£7.15

2006

62,679

£442,769

£7.06

2007

49,316

£321,418

£6.52

2008

26,337

£152,300

£5.78

2009

19,005

£100,486

£5.29

2010

16,359

£121,449

£7.42

2011

15,501

£130,601

£8.43

2012

15,262

£143,068

£9.37

2013

13,001

£137,298

£10.56

2014

10,238

£110,438

£10.79

So, what does this show?

In 2014, the number of prescriptions for homeopathy fell for the eighteenth consecutive year, this time by over 21% — the fourth largest percentage fall since 1995 — continuing the downward spiral.

The number of prescriptions are now just 6% of what they were at their peak in 1996 — a fall of over 94%.

The total cost of these prescriptions also fell by 20% to a new low.

The cost per prescription has risen again, this time by 2%, compared to an increase of 13% in 2012/2013.

It's clear that doctors are writing fewer homeopathy prescriptions, but because these figures are for England only, the decisions by NHS Tayside and NHS Lothian in the past few years (and the recent decision by NHS Lanarkshire) to cease funding homeopathy referrals cannot explain this continued decline.

At the start of World Homeopathy Awareness Week, perhaps doctors are now more aware than ever that prescribing 'medicines' for which there is no good evidence can no longer be justified either on medical1 or ethical2 grounds.

References

1 “NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy and NHMRC Information Paper - Evidence on the Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Treating Health Conditions | National Health and Medical Research Council.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/cam02.

2 Shaw, David M. “Homeopathy Is Where the Harm Is: Five Unethical Effects of Funding Unscientific ‘remedies.’” Journal of Medical Ethics 36, no. 3 (March 1, 2010): 130–31. doi:10.1136/jme.2009.034959.

10 April 2015


 

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