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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Call for clear, honest labeling about evidence on homeopathic products

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should insist that labels on homeopathic products

  • contain a clear public warning about lack of evidence for their efficacy in the treatment of any disease and
  • do not assert or imply that they are effective in the treatment of any disease.

There is no active ingredient in homeopathic ‘medicines’ and their efficacy beyond placebo is not supported by scientific evidence. The current system for labeling and licensing of homeopathic products creates the impression, wrongly, that evidence of efficacy has been supplied to the UK medicines regulator, the MHRA.  

Sense About Science and many scientific bodies protested against the current regulations for marketing authorisation of homeopathic products, which were introduced in 2006 with the specified aim of removing barriers to the expansion of the homeopathic industry. Homeopathic products are unable to meet the standards of clinical efficacy required under the Medicines Act (1968). The 2006 rules accepted, as sole evidence of efficacy, “the results of investigations, commonly known as homeopathic provings”.The regulations also allowed homeopathic product labels to state their intended use for relief of some conditions or symptoms. Such claims, however worded, imply efficacy where none has been proven.

The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley recently informed Sense about Science that the MHRA will reconsider rules for labeling of homeopathic products. We urge the MHRA to introduce warnings about the lack of evidence that such products work.


In July 2006, Sense About Science brought together leading experts in malaria and tropical diseases to respond to public misinformation about alternative ways to prevent malaria. They have warned that homeopathic medicines offer no protection against malaria or other serious tropical diseases. Read about the investigation and the Newsnight report about this.

On 1st September 2006, new regulations came into force that permit homeopathic products to make medical claims but exempt them from providing any scientific evidence that they are effective.

On 9th October, Sense About Science summarised for parliament hundreds of responses. These were instrumental in pressing for the debate that was held in the House of Lords on 26th October. We also worked to bring the objections directly to the attention of the Government and the regulatory authorities.

On 22th February 2010 the Commons Science and Technology Committee published “Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy”, in which they urged Government to withdraw NHS funding and MHRA licensing of homeopathy.

The Government’s response of 26th July 2010 to the Commons Science and Technology Committee report failed to address the Committee’s recommendation regarding MHRA licensing of homeopathic products (they can currently be registered under the Simplified Scheme or the National Rules Scheme). Specifically, where there is no evidence of efficacy, or scrutiny of efficacy, the Committee questioned whether products should make claims or indeed be subject to any MHRA processes or endorsement.




Tags: Health