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Plant Science Panel

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Evidence Check: Homeopathy

In October 2009 the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee announced the inquiry "Evidence Check: Homeopathy" as part of its work to assess the Government's use of evidence in policy-making. The Committee wrote to the Government on a number of topics and asked two questions: (1) What is the policy? (2) On what evidence is the policy based? The Committee selected Homeopathy for its second Evidence Check.

The Committee asked for short submissions on the Government's policy on licensing of homeopathic products and funding of homeopathy through the NHS and on the evidence base on homeopathic products and services.

Sense About Science submitted written evidence to the Committee and Tracey Brown, Managing Director of Sense About Science, gave oral evidence on 25th November 2009 (a video of the session is available).

See some of the coverage below:

The Telegraph
Boots: 'we sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, not because they work'

The Guardian
Homeopathy on the NHS is unethical, doctors tell MPs

Daily Mail
Boots 'sells homeopathic remedies because they're popular, not because they work'

The Times
Boots 'labels homeopathy as effective despite lack of evidence'

On 22nd February 2010 the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee published their report, concluding that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy and that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy. As they are not medicines, homeopathic products should no longer be licensed by the MHRA.The Government response was published 26 July 2010.

Sense About Science comment:

The Government has ignored the Committee's detailed consideration of the licensing of homeopathic products as medicines. It has acknowledged that "there will be an assumption that if the NHS is offering homeopathic treatments then they will be efficacious" and that homeopathic products can be licensed with no requirement for evidence that they treat any condition at all. However, the Government has put forward a weak point about 'patient choice' instead of considering what to do about these problems. At a time when PCTs are reviewing expenditure on ineffective treatments, this is perverse. We urge them to go back and give proper consideration to this part of the Committee's report. In the meantime, we recommend a warning on the label of homeopathic products telling people that the product is licensed without any evidence that it works.