Homeopathy: The debate rumbles on…

The publication of Prince Charles’ “Black Spider” letters last month again brings up the much-debated question of homeopathy, with the Prince’s Trust having lobbied Tony Blair both to retain NHS funding in the UK, as well as minimize criticism of alternative medicines. While critical evidence accumulates against the efficacy of homeopathy, from the UK’s House of Commons study in 2010 to an independent report from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council in 2015, consumer support for the practice, even in countries with high levels of education and fast access to healthcare info, is as strong as ever.

Patient requests for homeopathic medicines on the NHS prevented Tony Blair’s government from cutting funding. In Germany, a 2014 study found 60% of Germans use homeopathics, a rise of 7% since 2009, with the vast majority of the 60 health funds offering OTC reimbursement doing so only for homeopathic and anthroposophic medicines. A recent study by the Dutch Office of Statistics revealed that homeopathy came second only to acupuncture as the favoured alternative medicine in the Netherlands, with women aged 30-65 with higher education the most frequent users. And this is before we touch on use in India, with its 100,000+ trained homeopaths…

Despite the recent efforts of regulatory authorities to make life hard for homeopathic manufacturers, in Germany (huge price rises for homeopathic registration), the Netherlands (no more indications on homeopathic packs) and the USA (see the FDA’s public hearing in April), the practice is unlikely to disappear any time soon. Nor should it. So long as marketers make no claims beyond soft indications, and HCPs ensure consumers return to them if symptoms have not cleared up, homeopathy can be a gentle and natural alternative to the often confusing world of medicated options. With the correct guidance, there’s enough space in OTC for everyone.

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