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Homeopathy could be banned from UK’s Public Health System.
Doctors could be banned from prescribing homeopathy on the NHS under a consultation set to be launched by the Government.
Ministers say they will consult next year on whether the controversial practice should remain as an option for GPs.
Homeopathy is a “treatment” based on the use of highly diluted substances, which practitioners claim can cause the body to heal itself.
The bulk of scientific opinion however considers homeopathy to be a pseudoscience with no grounding in fact.
“With rising health demands, we have a duty to make sure we spend NHS funds on the most effective treatments,” George Freeman, the Minister for Life Sciences, told the BBC.
“We are currently considering whether or not homeopathic products should continue to be available through NHS prescriptions. We expect to consult on proposals in due course.”
The ban would see the practice added to “Schedule 1”, a blacklist of drugs GPs are not allowed to prescribe.
Homeopathy is not currently available on the NHS in all areas of the country, but there are several NHS homeopathic hospitals. Some GP practices also offer homeopathic treatment.
A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are “scientifically implausible”.
This is also the view of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.
The NHS website says: “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.”
Homeopathy is usually practised privately and homeopathic remedies are available from pharmacies. The price for an initial consultation with a homeopath can vary from around £20 to £80. Homeopathic tablets or other products usually cost around £4 to £10.
The total NHS spend on the practice, including GPs and homeopathic hospitals, is relatively small: around £4m.
There is no legal regulation of homeopathic practitioners in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a homeopath, even if they have no qualifications or experience.