REPOST: Homeopathy and the NHS

[THIS IS MY ATTEMPT TO PRESERVE SOME OLD BLOG POSTS BEFORE DELETING THE OLD BLOG.  THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED AUGUST 5TH 2009]

Over at Merseyside Skeptics, Marsh has a piece on overdosing on homeopathic treatments (more commonly known as “drowning”). He points out that the extent of the dilution of the treatment in question almost certainly left none of the active ingredient in the pill… This is all simply absurd. A part of me would like to set up a homeopathic clinic, sell pills filled with water and take people’s money just to punish them for being so bloody stupid… The worst thing is that the NHS is currently paying people to “practise” homeopathy…

 I’ve just looked on the NHS website and here are some choice quotes [note that these pages were “under revision” as of 18/07/2011]:

Despite the lack of clinical evidence, homeopathy remains a popular complementary therapy and it is available on the NHS

Unlike doctors, nurses, and other conventional healthcare professionals, homeopaths do not have to be registered with a regulatory body. The ‘Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council’ is a voluntary organisation which practitioners can register with, but they do not have to.

Homeopathy is a type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAMs are treatments that are not based on conventional scientific theories. Other CAMS include… faith healing.”

The best bit is that the same NHS website has a “references” section which lists a meta-analysis investigating homeopathic remedies and the placebo effect (Shang et al. (2005) in The Lancet). The authors conclusion:

“there was no convincing evidence that homoeopathy was superior to placebo, whereas forconventional medicine an important effect remained”

“Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.”

WTF!? Plus, the NHS is paying £4m per year for this kind of treatment.

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