Homeopathy under increasing scrutiny

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France is the latest country in recent years to call into question the role and efficacy of homeopathy, as governments look for savings in the healthcare budget. Last week’s announcement by France’s Minister for Solidarity & Health Agnes Buzyn that homeopathic medicines will be dereimbursed in France from 1st January 2021 is another blow to this consumer healthcare niche. In 2017, NHS England recommended that doctors no longer prescribe “ineffective, over-priced and low value treatments”, including homeopathy, which is said to have no clear or robust evidence to support use.

The French decision was based on a final recommendation by the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) stating that homeopathics have little proven efficacy and should not be covered by health insurance. In its assessment, which spanned 9 months, HAS evaluated close to 1,200 homeopathic products, many of which are currently reimbursed up to 30% when prescribed. In the interim, the level of reimbursement available for certain homeopathics will be cut from 30% to 15% on 1st January 2020, allowing consumers, manufacturers and prescribers time to prepare for eventual dereimbursement.

Homeopathy

Voicing its shock at the decision, key homeopathic player Boiron – which markets various leading OTCs in France, such as teething product Camilia – stated that around 1,000 jobs would be directly affected by the dereimbursement, given that 60% of the company’s business is in France and almost 70% of that is linked to reimbursed medicines. A November 2018 survey by Ipsos revealed that 77% of French people have used homeopathics.

In other countries, such as Spain and the USA, there has been a clampdown on homeopathic health claims. In November 2018, as part of a new marketing authorisation process for homeopathy, the AEMPS (Spanish Agency of Medicines & Medical Devices) indicated that homeopathics with no permitted therapeutic indication must state, “Sin indicaciones terapeuticas” (Without therapeutic indication) on packaging. Likewise, in May 2018, the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists announced that all homeopathic manufacturers will be encouraged to use the new disclaimer: “Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.”

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