The Evidence Check on Homeopathy – a merciless punch to its vitalist organs (despite attempts to water down report)
Posted by gimpy on February 22, 2010
The long awaited Science & Technology committee report on homeopathy has now been released and it is devastating for homeopathy and homeopaths.
In a report published today, the Science and Technology Committee concludes that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy. It also concludes that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (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 report is a series of merciless punches to the vitalist organs of homeopathy.
The report is damning of the theory behind homeopathy
We conclude that the principle of like-cures-like is theoretically weak. It fails to provide a credible physiological mode of action for homeopathic products. We note that this is the settled view of medical science
We consider the notion that ultra-dilutions can maintain an imprint of substances previously dissolved in them to be scientifically implausible.
the honesty and accuracy of the homeopaths submissions to the committee
We regret that advocates of homeopathy, including in their submissions to our inquiry, choose to rely on, and promulgate, selective approaches to the treatment of the evidence base as this risks confusing or misleading the public, the media and policy-makers.
and the evidence that it works
We do not doubt that homeopathy makes some patients feel better. However, patient satisfaction can occur through a placebo effect alone and therefore does not prove the efficacy of homeopathic interventions..
It strongly makes the case that there is no role of homeoapthy in the NHS, at all, not even if patients want it.
We conclude that placebos should not be routinely prescribed on the NHS. The funding of homeopathic hospitals—hospitals that specialise in the administration of placebos—should not continue, and NHS doctors should not refer patients to homeopaths.
The Committee is also damning of the MHRA’s role in endorsing homeopathy.
The MHRA, with commendable frankness, told our inquiry that it does not consider that homeopathic medicines have efficacy beyond placebo. The evidence we received during this inquiry supports that conclusion. On that basis, the tests that the MHRA uses to assess non-homeopathic medical products would mean that no homeopathic products would be licensed by the MHRA. Instead of introducing a blanket requirement for evidence of efficacy, the MHRA operates three licensing regimes for homeopathic products, in part, for historical reasons and, in part, it appears, to support the homeopathic industry. It is unacceptable for the MHRA to license placebo products—in this case sugar pills—conferring upon them some of the status of medicines. Even if medical claims on labels are prohibited, the MHRA’s licensing itself lends direct credibility to a product. Licensing paves the way for retail in pharmacies and consequently the patient’s view of the credibility of homeopathy may be further enhanced. We conclude that it is time to break this chain and, as the licensing regimes operated by the MHRA fail the Evidence Check, the MHRA should withdraw its discrete licensing schemes for homeopathic products.
as well as strongly critical of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s (RPSGBs) failure to appropriately investigate complaints about pharmacists
Although it goes wider than the scope of this Evidence Check inquiry we must put on record our concern about the length of time the RPSGB appears to be taking to investigate and reach conclusions on cases where it has been alleged that its guidelines on the sale of homeopathic products have been breached. We recommend that the Government enquires into whether the RPSGB, and from the 2010 handover, the General Pharmaceutical Council, is doing an adequate job in respect of the time taken to pursue complaints. (Paragraph 151)
In summary this report justifies and endorses almost every charge made by opponents of homeopathy against the profession with respect to NHS funding and MHRA endorsement. It is a massive victory.
However, there are some interesting observations to be made regarding the committee’s vote on the report. The formal minutes reveal that Ian Stewart, MP voted against the rest of the committee as he attempted to water down the report, such as
Amendment proposed, to leave out from “That” to the end of the question and add “this Committee declines to read the report a second time because it contains an evaluation of homeopathy which is outside the terms of reference of the inquiry as published by the Committee on 20 October 2009 and instead decides to write to the Government to call on it to fund a rigorous research programme into homeopathy.” instead thereof.—
Ian Stewart was lobbied hard by Carol Boyce, a homeopath who believes it can cure autism, to oppose the report. She claims that “Mr Stewart made a valiant attempt to to bring balance to the proceedings but was hopelessly outnumbered.” as well as claims that he circulated a letter accusing the committee of bias.
Before the Committee meetings I sent a letter to Mr Stewart advising him of this inherent bias and he circulated the letter to all members of the Committee. A similar letter was sent directly to the Committee members, put into ‘background information’ and I imagine was never read.
The Committee have confirmed that this letter was received and circulated as described although they deny Mr Stewart accused the committee of bias. Neither Mr Stewart nor Ms Boyce responded to requests for a public statement.
It is clear that the homeopaths have an ally in Mr Stewart who was prepared to attempt to water down the report, possibly because he is standing down at the election.
It is now clear that the homeopaths have tried everything from smear campaigns against Evan Harris to soliciting the support of a member of the committee to spread accusations of bias. What they have utterly failed to do is deal with the concerns about evidence that the report has identified and highlighted. If this report is acted on it will mean the end of homeopathy in the UK, and the homeopaths will only have themselves to blame. They have stuck to their ridiculous assertions of efficacy rather than engage with the substance of their critics views. I doubt will we see much recognition of this from the homeopaths, just more lies, deceit and smears. The end cannot come soon enough for this sorry trade.