Challenging misleading healthcare claims

Homeopathy on the NHS: at death's door

Homeopathy on the NHS falls for the eighteenth consecutive year

New figures released today show that homeopathy on the English NHS has fallen to a new low. The number of NHS prescriptions for homeopathy in England, fulfilled in community pharmacies, dropped by a further 13% in 2015 from the previous year and is 95% down from its peak nearly 20 years ago.

The data are compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) — the official source of data for the NHS — and published as their Prescription Cost Analysis (PCA) data set.*

The new figures for 2015 show that there were just 8,894 prescriptions, down from 10,238 in 2014. The total cost of these prescriptions has dropped to £94,313, the first time it has been below £100,000.

The decline of homeopathy in the NHS 2015

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

2015  8,894  £94,313  £10.60

This follows on from other recent blows to NHS homeopathy: the closure of the homeopathy clinic at the South Bristol Community Hospital in Bristol, the reviews by both Liverpool CCG and Wirral CCG on ending the funding of homeopathy via the Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service and other successfully completed reviews.

And the forthcoming Department of Health review of the blacklisting of homeopathy could mean CCGs are no longer able to prescribe it — not that many do now anyway.

Dilution by dilution, succussion by succussion, sugar pill by sugar pill, homeopathy is slowly but surely being removed from the NHS.

This will not be welcomed by homeopaths who businesses rely on the (undeserved and unearned) legitimacy that being provided on the NHS lends to homeopathy, but it's the inevitable result of the their own failure to provide robust evidence of its efficacy.

Switzerland legitimises homeopathy

In other news, however, it was announced by the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, SwissInfo.ch, as:

Swiss to recognise homeopathy as legitimate medicine

…but it would have been more accurate to say:

Swiss to recognise homeopathy as if it were legitimate medicine

That's because:

…the interior ministry said it had come to the conclusion that it was “impossible to provide such proof for these disciplines in their entirety”.

So, it's not that the Swiss authorities had come across good evidence that homeopathy (and the other treatments covered) were, indeed, effective; more that they gave in and decided to reimburse them anyway, despite the lack of evidence.

The saga of homeopathy in Switzerland goes back many years (see That ‘neutral’ Swiss homeopathy report). Full and permanent inclusion in the Swiss state health reimbursement scheme from 2017 onwards was supposed to be contingent on being provided with evidence of "efficacy, cost-effectiveness and suitability" by 2015. Not surprisingly, homeopaths seem to have failed at that and the Swiss Government have completely ignored the findings of the comprehensive report by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council that concluded:

Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective. Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness. People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner and should keep taking any prescribed treatments.

It is therefore perverse that the Swiss Government should appear to bend over backwards to ignore the evidence and agree to pay homeopaths for dispensing their magic sugar pellets.

But it may not be as smooth a ride as the homeopaths might like. Reimbursement will only take place for treatments administered by certified medical doctors. Additionally, according to the official announcement in Komplementärmedizin soll anderen Fachrichtungen gleichgestellt werden, some criteria apply concerning tradition of usage and research, scientific evidence and medical experience and further education. Also, some treatments that are seen as critical are to be examined and potentially excluded from the reimbursement. It's not at all clear exactly what this will mean for the homeopaths, but this may not be the full endorsement from the Swiss Government they would like to believe.

Let's beware

This Sunday is the anniversary of the birth of the inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, heralding the start of World Homeopathy Awareness Week.

So as homeopathy on the NHS is in what must surely be its death throes, what better time to help others be aware of homeopathy?

Help spread the good news about homeopathy by sharing this newsletter and the following resources and further reading:

Discover Homeopathy

How does homeopathy work?

Homeopathy Awareness Week

Skeptic successes in homeopathy by Jo Brodie

NHS Homeopathy Legal Challenge by the Good Thinking Society

NHS Homeopathy Spending by the Good Thinking Society

Should Homeopathic Remedies Be Blacklisted On The NHS?&nbspby the Good Thinking Society

Follow us on Twitter and re-Tweet our Tweets on homeopathy throughout World Homeopathy Awareness Week.

Notes

* For details of how to extract the data on homeopathy from the (very large) HSCIC data set, see:  An idiot’s guide to understanding NHS homeopathy prescription data

07 April 2016


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