In the sixth and final part of a linked series, the BHA provides detailed comments on the recommendations of the Science & Technology Committee’s “Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy” issued on 22 February 2010.
Part 6: Overall conclusions
33. By providing homeopathy on the NHS and allowing MHRA licensing of products which subsequently appear on pharmacy shelves, the Government runs the risk of endorsing homeopathy as an efficacious system of medicine. To maintain patient trust, choice and safety, the Government should not endorse the use of placebo treatments, including homeopathy. Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products. (Paragraph 157)
Homeopathy is more than a placebo and rightfully belongs in the NHS where patients can best benefit from doctors integrating it into healthcare.
This report and its conclusions represent a rush to judgment, reflecting the narrow and cursory nature of the review. It was systematic only in excluding facts that tend to support homeopathy: it omits or misrepresents any research evidence (including the BHA’s), which challenges the view that patients’ response to homeopathy is due to placebo. Its conclusions are unsustainable in the light of scientific evidence.
Large areas of evidence that were mentioned in written submissions and oral evidence are ignored, emphasising the biased nature of the review. Omissions include all systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials of homeopathy for specific conditions and groups of conditions, and systematic reviews of biological models of homeopathic responses.
Even more disturbing is the dismissive manner in which the committee deals with the healthcare of patients and their response to homeopathic treatment. Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) are increasingly seen by the NHS as a critical component in assessing healthcare interventions. The NHS homeopathic hospitals have excellent PROMs results. In addition, the majority of patients presenting at the NHS homeopathic hospitals have serious and chronic conditions that often have not been helped through conventional methods. These patients are not – as the committee would like to purport – presenting minor complaints whose improvement is easily explained away by a “placebo response”.
This narrow-minded and illiberal report is highly tendentious, consistently misrepresenting the scientific evidence to denigrate homeopathy, and making unfounded and pejorative allegations against those who advocate, practice or develop research in homeopathy. Repeatedly asserting that it is only placebo does not make that assertion true.
It would be ill advised for the government to accept the report’s flawed recommendations. If adopted, they would deny patients the choice of treatment that is vital to their healthcare as individuals. Furthermore, the recommendations would crucially threaten important and necessary research development in homeopathy.
Dr Sara Eames, President, Faculty of Homeopathy
Dr Peter Fisher, Director, Royal London Homeopathic Hospital
Dr Robert T Mathie, Research Development Adviser, British Homeopathic Association
Ms Cristal Sumner, Chief Executive, British Homeopathic Association