Humanists generally support scientists and researchers in their quest for knowledge and the improvement of human health and wellbeing. Much scientific evidence had been put forward refuting the claims that homeopathy (a system which is based on treating the individual with highly diluted substances) can improve health and be used to treat various illnesses.
It is the BHA’s position that homeopathic treatments should not be funded by the NHS, that no further public money should be spent researching such treatments when the evidence that they do not work (except in some cases having a placebo effect) is overwhelming, and that pharmacists who do sell homeopathic products have a duty to make clear that there is no scientific or clinical evidence base to support the efficacy of those products.
What are we doing?
In February 2010, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee produced a report on the available evidence regarding homeopathy. They concluded that “The Government’s position on homeopathy is confused. On the one hand, it accepts that homeopathy is a placebo treatment. This is an evidence-based view. On the other hand, it funds homeopathy on the NHS without taking a view on the ethics of providing placebo treatments. We argue that this undermines the relationship between NHS doctors and their patients, reduces real patient choice and puts patients’ health at risk. The Government should stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS.” The BHA welcomed the report and called for “public funds [to only be] spent on treatments that have been proven to work, and on research that is backed up by scientific evidence.”
In June 2010, the BHA responded to a consultation on new guidance for pharmacists produced by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland which suggested that pharmacists have a duty to advise patients that there is ‘no scientific or clinical evidence base for the efficacy of homeopathic products, beyond a placebo effect.’
We also welcomed the British Medical Association’s (BMA) call to stop the NHS funding homeopathy at their 2010 annual conference.
We continue to monitor the government’s view on homeopathy and expect to take more action on this issue shortly.