Alternative Treatment Under Scrutiny
Homeopathic Health Care Funding to Stop
In the current economic climate governments are looking to save money and eliminate wasteful expenditure. A recent report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published findings and recommendations that could see the state funding of homeopathic health care treatment axed by the British government. Could this be evidence of good or poor financial management?
Evidence Check on Homeopathic Treatment
The Committee has urged the government to withdraw NHS funding for homeopathic treatment and stop the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency licensing homeopathic treatments. The report states that there is a “mismatch between evidence and policy.”
The committee raised concerns that while the government recognises that there is no evidence that homeopathic treatment works beyond the placebo effect, it continues to fund homeopathic health care treatment through the National Health Service budget. The NSH currently funds four homeopathic hospitals in Scotland and England.
The report follows an evidence check questioning whether the government’s policies on homeopathy were based on sound evidence. Testimony was collected from the director of research at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, the chairman of the British Association of Homeopathic Manufacturers and the chief scientific adviser of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
Science and Technology Committee Conclusions
The committee concluded that the 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 said.
Other concerns included the introduction of the National Rules Scheme in 2006 that allowed homeopathic treatments to make medical claims that were not based on randomised controlled trials, and the Department of Health’s willingness to spend public money on treatment that was “faith” based, rather than on a foundation of firm evidence.
The committee’s chairman, Liberal Democrat Phil Willis, said in a statement that “this was a challenging inquiry that provoked strong reactions. We were seeking to determine whether the government’s policies 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,” Willis added. “This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences. We await the government’s response to our report with interest.”
It is no secret that the political party that wins the next British general election will implement severe cuts to public expenditure. The recent press reports on the wasteful purchase of unused swine flu vaccines by the British government, underscores the difficulty of doing business with large pharmaceutical corporations and raises questions about the government’s diligence. By comparison, the government’s expenditure on homeopathic health care seems like a drop in the ocean.
While the homeopathic community may seem like a soft target for financial cuts, there are others who may view the situation differently, and see yet more examples of government financial mismanagement on the run in to the next general election.