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Homeopathic pillsHomeopathic remedies often contain few or no active ingredients

The NHS should stop funding homeopathy and it should no longer be marketed as a medicine in pharmacies, doctors say.

Medics voted on the issue at the British Medical Association's annual conference in Brighton.

They dismissed the highly-diluted remedies as "nonsense" and potentially harmful to patients as it can lead them to shunning conventional medicines.

The Department of Health homeopathy said treatment was under review.

Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of treatment that uses highly diluted substances.

In some cases none of the original product is left. It is given orally in the belief that it will stimulate the body's self-healing mechanism.

The NHS is thought to spend about £4m a year on the treatment, helping to fund four dedicated homeopathic hospitals and numerous prescriptions.

Dr Mary McCarthy, a GP from Shropshire, said there was no evidence from hundreds of trials that homeopathy worked beyond the placebo effect - in which a patient gets better but only because they believe the treatment will work and their symptoms clear up because of the psychological boost.

She added: "It can do harm by diverting patients from conventional medical treatments."

Watery science

She was supported in the debate by a number of other doctors, despite dozens of supporters of the treatment gathering outside the conference centre urging them not to.

Dr Tom Dolphin, a member of the BMA's junior doctors committee, dismissed it as "nonsense on sticks".


  • Involves giving people very dilute amounts of a substance that in larger amounts might produce symptoms similar to the condition being treated
  • For example, one remedy which might be used in a person suffering from insomnia would be made from coffee
  • Supporters believe homeopathy helps relieve a range of minor ailments from bruising to insomnia
  • But critics say it is no better than sugar pills and people only get better because they believe the treatment will work - the so-called placebo effect

"We risk as a society slipping back into a state of magical thinking when made-up science passes for rational discourse."

Peter Bamber, from the BMA's consultants committee, added: "If you want to buy a bottle of water go to the supermarket."

However, other doctors spoke in favour of homeopathy.

Dr John Garner, a GP from Edinburgh, said: "This [a ban] would deprive patients who have had a benefit."

And Dr David Shipstone, a urologist from the East Midlands, said it would be unfair to pick on homeopathy as there were plenty of other treatments which were used by doctors despite a lack of categorical evidence they worked.

"What is valid scientific evidence? Academics can argue about it all day."

The call by doctors comes after the House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee in February called for a similar ban on NHS funding, saying it could not be justified.

The Society of Homeopaths said there was evidence the remedies worked.

And a spokeswoman also pointed out that the amount of public money spent on it was very low.

She said: "The cost of homeopathy on the NHS is low - just 0.001% of the £11 billion drugs budget."

But the Department of Health homeopathy said it was looking into the issue.

"The department is considering issues to do with homeopathic remedies and hospitals as part of the government's response to the Science and Technology Committee's report on homeopathy. The response will be issued soon."

mervyn evans Jun 29, 2010 10:09:53 AM
Votes: 2
The drug companies should not be allowed to interfere with therapies they know nothing about inorder to make even more profit for themselves, people should be able to choose what medicines they want, if it did not work they would'nt keep trying to prove it did'nt.
mervyn evans Jun 29, 2010 10:17:59 AM
Votes: 2
If anybody wants to see Homoeopathy work they should go to India, I did some training in one of their Homoeopathic hospitals that saw 300 outpatients a day suffering from evey illness there is and doing well. Most of the beds were empty as they took their medicine home . Every town there has a Homoeopathic hospital funded by the government for the ones that can't afford to pay. No drugs were used there so many millions were saved.
Saskia Jun 29, 2010 10:41:44 AM
Votes: 3
Of course homeopathy works, people wouldnt take the medicine if it didnt! Thousands of people have their own proof of seeing themselves or their children get better, why do we always have to get scientific proof to 'prove' that it works. The medical proffession is a billion pound industry so of course the doctors dont want to hear anything about homeopathy. Dr Hilary would lose patients if we all started going to homeopaths!
M.Shahid homeoapth Jun 29, 2010 12:51:31 PM
Votes: 2
Homeopathy does work and there are loads of medicines and plant extracts now being used in ellopathy and cancer research which are being used in homeopathy for 100 years. Belladona, Arnica, carduus Marianus(widely know as Milk thistle) are just a few examples.
M.Shahid homeoapth Jun 29, 2010 12:52:05 PM
Votes: 2
The money being wasted to prove homeopathy wrong could have been used for some other positive causes ,on the other hand homeopathic medicine's growing market is a threat for all those pharmacuticals who are bringing different drugs into market every year to treat all sorts of health issue and later those drugs been baned because of their side effects or unsatisfactory results.
M.Shahid homeoapth Jun 29, 2010 12:52:34 PM
Votes: 3
Not only that , these pharmacuticals come out with claims that their newly researched drugs can grow you taller, make your skin look better and make you lose weight without any physical workout or dietry changes. People are being ripped off every second with such claims , is goverment going to do anything about it ????????or just will keep chasing homeopathy in a cirlce ?
Celia Claypole Jun 29, 2010 1:38:33 PM
Votes: 2
I rolled my eyes at the biased discussion between New Age Guru Carole Caplin and Dr Hilary; there are many fully qualified GP's out there who have turned to homoeopathy seeing through the lies of the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical drugs treat symptoms not the cause suppressing illness and pushing it further into the body and many of our vaccinations are a time-bomb for triggering auto-immune diseases. This will be one of the biggest scandals in the history of humanity.
(anonymous) Jun 29, 2010 1:44:56 PM
Votes: 2
As a homeopath, I am continually surprised to note that the medical establishment continue to deny there is scientific proof that homeopathy works, when many scientific articles have been published to confirm it does! I work for McMillan treating cancer patients who are suffering from the side effects of conventional treatment and ALL of them note an improvement after taking the remedies.
Lena Jun 29, 2010 1:56:28 PM
Votes: 1
I was shocked at the bigoted view of Dr Hilary. Not everything can be proven scientifically in a laboratory and surely all the thousands of testimonials and case histories that show it does work can't be dismissed. Perhaps many of those cases of breast cancer and heart problems wouldn't need the funds that Dr Hilary says should be taken away from the Homeopathic hospitals if people (and doctors) were more prepared to concentrate on lifestyle issues.
helen stavrou Jun 29, 2010 3:03:06 PM
Votes: 0
i have used homeopathy on my children, myself and my friends for about 6 years now. i and my children very rarely go to see our GP as i have become very good at diagnosing and dispensing the right remedies for us. My homeopath has 'cured' many of mine and my childrens chronic and general illnesses over the years. the secret is getting the right remedy, when you find it, homeopathy is trully fantastic.

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