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NHS Should Stop Funding Homeopathy, Says Parliamentary Committee 507

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-am-I-going-to-align-my-chakras-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Homeopathic remedies work no better than placebos, and so should no longer be paid for by the UK National Health Service, a committee of British members of parliament has concluded. In preparing its report, the committee, which scrutinizes the evidence behind government policies, took evidence from scientists and homeopaths, and reviewed numerous reports and scientific investigations into homeopathy. It found no evidence that such treatments work beyond providing a placebo effect." Updated 201025 19:40 GMT by timothy: This recommendation has some people up in arms.

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NHS Should Stop Funding Homeopathy, Says Parliamentary Committee

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  • by siloko (1133863) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @02:58PM (#31248096)
    Heomeopathy = Placebo so no surprise there . . .
    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:18PM (#31248420) Journal

      They should continue funding homeopathy. Just dilute the funding until there's less than a fraction of a penny per bill. According to homeopathy, this should be even better than receiving the full amount.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      Which is why I'm in two minds about this. Placebos are effective in a number of cases, and belief in the effectiveness of the placebo has been shown to increase this. If giving people a glass of water and telling them that it's magic pixie juice boosts their immune system and avoids the need to give them antibiotics, why not do that?

  • The Brits seem to be on the forefront of pseudo-science debunking.

    Good job, mates!

    • by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:08PM (#31248256) Homepage
      The Brits seem to be on the forefront of pseudo-science debunking.

      Seems to me to be the exact opposite. The fact that they were funding it up to this point is be a sign of backwardness.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xaxa (988988)

        The Brits seem to be on the forefront of pseudo-science debunking.

        Seems to me to be the exact opposite. The fact that they were funding it up to this point is be a sign of backwardness.

        In Britain as Christianity gets less and less popular astrology, magic, neo-paganism, etc become more popular. Far too many people actually seem to care what's printed in a horoscope.

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:17PM (#31248410)

      As everyone knows the more you dilute a Homeopatheic reagent the more powerful it becomes. Diluting their funding will only make them stronger.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Which is why a scientist is being sued for libel because he called chiropractors quacks and frauds.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        That's because Britain's libel laws are generally weighted in favor of the plaintiff. [nytimes.com] In Britain, the plaintiff need not demonstrate that the statements are false; the statements are presumed false and the defendant must prove them true. The plaintiff need not demonstrate direct harm either. The U.S. (and much of the rest of the Western world) has much more stringent rules; in the U.S., the plaintiff must prove the statements false and demonstrate harm. If they are a "public figure", they also need to prove

  • I for one thank.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BeardedChimp (1416531) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:00PM (#31248128)
    Ben Goldacre for stopping this lunacy. His weekly Bad Science column and website [badscience.net] have been invaluable in combating woo.
  • Let them do something like, oh, dispense only one-tenth as much for each prescription, then make the patient dilute it prior to use, like the US insurers that force people to get double-dose pills and split them.

    Oh, that's right -- since diluting homeopathic remedies makes them stronger, they'd be putting everyone at risk of overdose. Never mind, then.

    • by myowntrueself (607117) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:20PM (#31248474)

      Oh, that's right -- since diluting homeopathic remedies makes them stronger, they'd be putting everyone at risk of overdose. Never mind, then.

      The latest terror threat; credible reports have been received by British Intelligence that terrorists plan to drop small quantities of homeopathic remedies into the nations reservoirs. The resulting homeopathic overdoses could bring the nation to its knees.

      Police are on high alert and pharmacies are advised to report any suspicious individuals purchasing homeopathic remedies, particularly individuals who purchase ONLY SMALL QUANTITIES at a time.

  • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:05PM (#31248196) Homepage Journal

    If the homeopathy is performing as well as placebo, but doctors offering placebo treatments do so at a risk of litigation, wouldn't the Homeopathy still be better than nothing?

    Or is No Treatment = Placebo?

    -Rick

    • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:19PM (#31248448) Homepage Journal

      The difference between a placebo and homeopathy is the doctor prescribing a placebo KNOWS there is no medicinal value in what they are giving to a patient, whereas the person using homeopathy CLAIMS there will be a medicinal benefit.

      In the former, the doctor is merely giving sugar pills (or something similar) in a controlled environment to test whether the person's condition is real or imagined, or is part of a study to see if a new medicine actually works.

      In the latter, the person using homeopathy claims that by repeated dilutions of a mixture to the point there is no discernible ingredient other than water, that somehow, through some unknown conveyance, the water "remembers" what it was instilled with and thus, miraculously, can become effective at treating an ill.

      So no, homeopathy is not better than nothing. If anything, it is more harmful because a) people with serious medical conditions do not seek out real medicine to alleviate what afflicts them, b) it sucks money from people without offering any evidence that what it claims to do actually takes place, c) it runs counter to every scientific principle of how things really work, thus dumbing down even further the public's understanding of how science is performed.

      Granted, a and b aren't really that bad as it tends to cull the herd, but c is what exasperates those who use common sense by having to listen to such drivel.

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:09PM (#31248266)

    It's worth noting that homeopathy != all natural remedies nor does it mean the only medication that works come from pharmaceutical companies and doctors.

    Or maybe it's not worth noting. I had to look what homeopathy actually was though, since a lot of "natural" remedies get lumped into it as well. Even vitamins/minerals or probiotics tend to be looked on as non-traditional medicine and thus highly suspect.

    • When not backed up by peer reviewed research they remain highly suspect.
      For example from here: [guardian.co.uk]

      Out of hundreds of "probiotic" strains of bacteria under consideration, not one was shown to improve gut health or immunity. Taurine, the amino acid added to energy and sports drinks, was not found to boost energy. Nor was there evidence to support the claim that glucosamine is beneficial for joints, although it is widely marketed as such.

      The benefits of vitamins and minerals on the other hand do have evidence backing them up, but members of the alt-med community goes so far as claiming that they cure AIDs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GooberToo (74388)

        The benefits of vitamins and minerals on the other hand do have evidence backing them up, but members of the alt-med community goes so far as claiming that they cure AIDs.

        While I've never heard the AIDs claim, I wouldn't be surprised. Interestingly enough, there may be some evidence behind such a claim. Even the famous MD Anderson did cancer treatment trails during the 80's and found that their early formulations were as effective, if not more effective than some conventional (at the time) radiation therapies against some cancers. The studies were stopped before wider testing could be conducted. Regardless, they did prove that alternative vitamin therapies may have value for

  • Never underestimate the power of the placebo effect, it can do wonders! It can even make you drunk! [bbc.co.uk]
    With that said, homepathy, like religion, although it can help people, technically it's still fraud.
    • With that said, homepathy, like religion, although it can help people, technically it's still fraud.

      Homeopathy can be tested and results viewed (e.g., bacterial counts). You've actually proven all religions and any religion to be frauds?

      • by Per Wigren (5315)

        You've actually proven all religions and any religion to be frauds?

        Yes, it says so in a book I read. Proof enough for me!

  • by hotseat (102621) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:10PM (#31248298)
    It's worth pointing out, for those who don't know much about the British parliamentary system, that the title of this post isn't true. One of the Parliamentary Select Committees has recommended that the NHS should stop funding homoeopathy. This is not a decision and will not automatically result in the money being withdrawn. This should be seen as the starting of a conversation on the issue in Parliament. In reality, the government has effective control over public spending and unless and until the Department of Health decides to change the way its money is spent then there will be no change in practice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ed (79221)

      Not only that, there is no such thing as the UK NHS, in Scotland the NHS is separate and responds to different priorities

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by P-Nuts (592605)
      I didn't know the taxpayer funded homoeopathy (since this is an article about the UK, I'm bloody well using the British spelling). When and by whom was this started?
  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:14PM (#31248360) Homepage Journal

    From the fine article:

    "Either we are governed by evidence and science, or by Prince Charles." --Edzard Ernst

    Awesome.

    -Peter

  • but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:15PM (#31248376) Homepage
    But combining this with a a earlier /. article about the placebo effect and modern drugs (http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/09/07/1526234/Placebos-Are-Getting-More-Effective)
    You get that even if they only produce the placebo effect they will do as good as many popular current drugs for patients and without the horrible side effects that come with them.
  • Simon Singh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by genmax (990012) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:16PM (#31248400)
    Simon Singh is being currently driven to bankruptcy because of a libel suit [wikipedia.org] in the UK, for saying exactly the same thing about Chiropractic remedies. I hope the homeopaths sue these MPs for libel, and just perhaps, that will make lawmakers think about reforming the ridiculous British libel laws.
    • Re:Simon Singh (Score:5, Informative)

      by CrazyBusError (530694) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:30PM (#31248700) Homepage
      *sighs*

      That's not what he's being sued for.

      He's being sued for suggesting that the chiropractors were willfully giving people treatments they knew to be be useless. Personally, I don't see think that's what he meant in his article and that's his argument, too, but the one thing he's *not* being sued for is saying chiropractic remedies are little more than horseshit - there's be no lawsuit if that was all he'd said.

      There always seems to be a remarkable amount of bitching about the British libel system, but really all it boils down to is that if you publicly smear someone, you'd better be able to damn well prove it. Where exactly is the problem in that? From what I've seen of American media and politics, it'd be a hell of a lot better if there were some requirement for people to be able to back up their accusations...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        Calling chiropractors frauds is no more a libel than calling mobsters violent hoods.

      • Re:Simon Singh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by genmax (990012) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @04:01PM (#31249346)
        The point of the libel case is that Simon's decision to make the argument that promoting and selling remedies without scientific backing is disingenuous is being classified as a smear --- and the relation to this article is that that's almost exactly what the MPs are saying about homeopaths.

        There is nothing wrong with the ideal of disallowing libel, but it is the way in which that ideal is implemented in British law that is what causes most people to "bitch". For example, in the chiropractic case, the courts have essentially asked Simon to defend against the worst possible allegation that one could possibly read in to his case --- he now essentially needs to prove dishonest intent on the part of the chiropractors, which is even more unfair by the fact that *his* intent to make that claim dishonestly was assumed with little opportunity for him to defend it.

        Specifically, his statement was "despite a lack of evidence, the BCA happily promote these remedies ..." and the judge decided that the claim of dishonest conduct was implied by the use of the word happy. I don't know how you feel, but I'd say that any fair reading of that statement is not going to assume that that claim was made. The upshot of all of this is that Simon Singh has to prove that chiropractors are intentionally dishonest or pay up around half a million pounds. He can't just argue that reasonable people should have some reason to believe a remedy works before they sell it! He's clearly being sued for making a statement which was an expression of his opinion.

        A law is judged by the way it is implemented, and the effect of the British libel laws (in this case and many others) has been to chill criticisms. I disagree with you --- I think the American system, which also allows people to sue for Libel, but asks the plaintiff to prove that the defendant stated something specifically untrue as fact, is far more ideal. There may be a lot more "noise" on the news, but at least no one's being censored.

      • Re:Simon Singh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @04:38PM (#31249900) Homepage Journal

        He's being sued for suggesting that the chiropractors were willfully giving people treatments they knew to be be useless.

        So they're admitting ignorance to the efficacy of their treatments?

        Reminds me of the excuses of the Iraq War promoters. Before the war, it was all about the weapons of mass destruction. After the war, excuse me, major combat operations, it was all about the positive results of regime change, despite the lack of weapons.

        There are no liars anymore, just blithering idiots with hearts of gold.

  • by UdoKeir (239957) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:17PM (#31248406)
  • Loophole (Score:3, Funny)

    by edraven (45764) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @03:40PM (#31248908)

    Even if the government stops paying for homeopathic medicine, you can just take your last subsidized dosage and add it to a gallon of distilled water. Not only do you now have more of it, it's now phenomenally more powerful! And when you're almost out, you can do it again! And it only gets better!
    Seriously, why ever pay for this stuff more than once?

  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @04:35PM (#31249842)
    The only reason that established science is not able to get homeopathy to work is because when they create their test samples they do not use un-tritiated water. As a result, when the tritium atom decays the released neutron disturbs the water memory via collisions rendering the sample useless.
  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @04:48PM (#31250054)
    He forgot to take his medication.

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