The NHS currently spends £4m a year on homeopathy
The use of public money to fund homeopathy cannot be justified, according to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
It recommended that the NHS should stop funding homeopathy. BBC News website readers have been getting in touch with their views. Below is a selection.
AGAINST THE NHS FUNDING HOMEOPATHY
As a GP, I am angry and frustrated that this quack-medicine is being funded by the NHS. So-called homeopathic "remedies" are just water - freely available from a tap near you. Some are diluted so much that you would have to drink more water than there is in all the oceans just to ingest one molecule of the "active ingredient". Mr Wilson from the BAHP (British Association of Homeopathic Manufacturers) says publicly there is "evidence" for homeopathy - can he name just one meta-analysis in a respected journal that demonstrates anything more than a placebo effect?
Doubtless some of your readers will write in, claiming to have been "cured" by homeopathy, but this isn't scientific evidence. I might develop a cold the same day I eat macaroni cheese, but this doesn't prove macaroni cheese causes colds. Honestly, if the NHS funds this, then why not leeches, blood-letting and crystal healing too? You wouldn't think this is supposed to be a scientific age.
Dr Gary Grant, Manchester
It should be made illegal, not just banned from the NHS. Drinking water to cure cancer is far more dangerous than taking illegal drugs. When they PROVE the effect, then they can come back. But for some reason, nobody seems interested in going down the same clinical trials that real drugs have to go through. I wonder why that is?
Peter Richardson, England
I am astonished that the taxpayer hands over £4m annually to fund homeopathy. If the scientifically illiterate wish to spend their own cash on this deeply silly form of "remedy" then I suppose they can, along with crystal healing and all the rest of it. But why should the NHS, which in other fields very rigorously determines the value of the treatments it can and can't pay for (as with Herceptin, et al.), waste public money on such unverifiable, feeble-minded stuff?
Matthew N., Reading, UK
After an injury playing rugby that left me on crutches for several months I tried homeopathy. After being charged between £40-£50 per consultation with no demonstrable results the homeopath basically scarpered. The issue, I believe, is that the problem that needed treatment could not possibly respond to a placebo affect. I'm now a physiotherapist. I strongly resent the NHS spending £4m on voodoo where the funds could be well invested elsewhere.
Suggested by doctor that I should try it for a "tummy" problem. Useless. Actually had developed a lactose intolerance. A total waste of money that could be better employed.
Hugh Haddow, Cambridge, UK
Homeopathy is a joke beyond belief, or at least it would be if so much money wasn't being thrown at it. I once made my opinion on the subject known to a work colleague who, in desperation to find some relief for a serious pain she was suffering from, considered homeopathy. I explained what it was, why it was nonsense and all about the placebo effect, but became ostracised by the whole office for spreading "lies" and not "being respectful" to people's beliefs and "alternate medicine." It was incredible. The woman who wanted relief from her pain tried the homeopathy, and was amazed when she said they were working. Again, after a few weeks, her pain returned, despite her increasing the number of pills she took. I would like to say there's a happy ending to the story, about how she came to her senses and threw the pills away into her work bin, but no. Eventually her pain and headaches and all got too much she left and no longer works, and from what I've heard, she still takes those damn pills.
The MPs are right on this one. Homeopathy is best left to the private sector, not the NHS. The NHS needs to focus on "core business" - because its budget WILL be cut in the next Parliament, even if NO politician is prepared to admit it as yet.
Tim, Gillingham, UK
I can't believe it was ever publicly funded in the first place. What price on the placebo effect? £4m a year, apparently!
Tom, Southampton, UK
Tried homeopathy over a long period of time but eventually thought it a complete waste of time and money.
Moira West, Sleaford, Lincolnshire
And not before time too. Homeopathy should have been called out for the snake-oil that it is a long time ago. Medicine should be based on science not voodoo.
Graham Anderson, Edinburgh, Scotland
Homeopathy - you call it sugar pills, I call it snake oil. Where are the medical trials to prove it's effectiveness? There aren't any. Have the homeopathic community any intentions to conduct such trials and submit to peer review? I doubt it.
IN SUPPORT OF HOMEOPATHY FUNDING
At age four my son had glue ear, which affected his hearing badly, and was recommended for an operation for grommets. I took him to see a homeopath who diagnosed an allergy to cow's milk. She gave him a remedy which made him vomit up phlegm for a day, suggested soya milk as an alternative and gave him vitamin C to prevent further ear infections.
Next time we saw the consultant he did not believe the change in my son's hearing ability, which was profound. No operation has ever been necessary and I have used homeopathic doctors and remedies for all family members ever since. Childhood ailments have all been dealt with successfully by homeopathy: fevers, bruises, conjunctivitis, cold sores, etc, but it is important to get the right diagnosis of a bigger problem first.
Daphne Welch, Kidderminster UK
When I was young I was diagnosed with asthma and eczema, however I had several underlying problems all of which were struggling to be tackled by the 1960s NHS. However, my parents were recommended by the practice GP to seek a homeopathic practice and see what they could offer. They did a wonderful job and by age five my eczema was non existent. The treatment consisted of homeopathic remedies, diet and relaxation massage. By my mid teens you would never know I suffered from either complaint. I had about two years or so of treatment - money well spent by parents that they did not really have at the time. Yet again a government medalling in things it doesn't understand, nor do some GP's it has to be said. I sometimes wonder who are the quacks here!
R. Roberts, Barwell
I used only homeopathy (homeopathic birthing kit) both prior to and during the birth of my last daughter and from my experience the birth was much better, it was much quicker (2 hours) and much less painful. I required no form of "conventional" pain relief at all - not even an aspirin. Healing was much quicker afterwards.
The baby was also much more alert as it was not suffering from the effects of drugs or gas and air. If it was only placebo it was a very powerful placebo and as such great - it meant baby and I weren't pumped full of drugs. I have since used homeopathy (under instruction) with dogs and horses with great results. As far as I am aware they are not party to the placebo affect? I don't know how it works, but I am confident that it does.
Sarah, Oxford, UK
While no one knows how homeopathy works the fact is that it does, beyond placebo. It has worked on me, and I have used it successfully on others. Many doctors and dentists quietly encourage their more difficult cases to seek help from homeopathy when conventional medicine fails. The committee's bias on this matter is a disgrace and irresponsible. The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (RLHH) will be jeopardised by this finding, yet the RLHH is a leading facility for the treatment of skin complaints that can not be treated otherwise. In the long term the committee's report will reduce the options available to patients and deprive practitioners of their livelihood, and to what end? To increase still further the power of the pharmaceutical industry to administer drugs which in some cases cause as many serious health issues as they suppress.
John Venables, Norwich
They have always worked well for me and many others I know! They have not given me any side effects, unlike the pharmaceutical prescription drugs I was taking. I have just spent the last 3 weeks getting over the effects of one of my so called medically prescribed "cures". I am back now to homeopathy and feel much better in myself. Placebo or not, if they help why would any one want to stop them. (Perhaps the pharmaceutical companies?)
D. Harrison, Gloucestershire
I have avoided conventional medicine for the last 20 years because of its suppressive nature and the side effects of the drugs prescribed. I have been using homeopathy for a number of years and have found it to be extremely effective dealing with a number of ailments from back pain to eczema which it completely cured.
Mike Meehan, Southend on Sea, Essex
My son was treated for lazy bowels with laxatives, enemas and even psychiatry at our local hospital. After four very distressing years I took him to out local homeopathic doctor. It was the first time I had used homeopathic medicines and had no idea if it would be effective. After two weeks there was a marked improvement and my son's condition continued to improved in less than six months. I don't believe MPs are authorities in alternative medicines and would be considering finances over the fact that homeopathy has been extremely effective for many generations
Bernadine Owen, West Drayton
I have used homeopathy and it has proved to be effective. We cannot just dismiss the placebo effect, and at the same time given an evidence based model of findings from a western scientific perspective does not always equate with the results that you expect. Let us broaden our horizons and integrate medicine.
Bill Mc Allister, Kendal, Cumbria
I have witnessed at first hand the power of homeopathy to heal without side effects. My mother is 94 and suffers from dementia. She has been in a nursing home for more that 5 years. She is very frail and does not speak any more. She now spends most of her time in bed. We regularly administer homeopathic remedies, with the full approval of her doctor. The result is that she no longer suffers from recurrent urinary track infections, she has not had the flu (she does not receive a flu jab) and she recovers quickly from chest infections. Her remedies are prescribed by a gifted homeopathic practitioner. She is not aware of the homeopathic treatments and simply takes the tiny sugar pill without any difficulty. In her case the placebo effect cannot be the reason that she recovers.
I went to see practitioner as a last resort on a colleagues recommendation. Never heard of it before. First remedy did nothing. Only went back because I had paid. Second remedy worked like a charm.
Firstly, please let me point out that I am not a homeopath or complementary healthcare provider. Personally, I have good experiences with homeopathy. However, I am also a keen believer in the power of the mind and body to heal itself given the appropriate physical and psychological environments. The two obviously work best hand in hand. I would urge the NHS and any other health care provider to continue with complementary therapies on this basis as one well patient is far better than none. What is, in my view, more of a waste of money in many cases is the use of physiotherapy when it is clear that chiropractic or osteopathy would provide a more permanent improvement in the patient's condition.
I have been using homeopathy (privately) for the last 10-12 years, and have found it to work, it is a slow process, but has little or no side affects. Cost to tax payer is nothing compared to total annual NHS budget. It should be widely offered to more and more patients, even at GP levels. I believe politicians should stay out of this debate and let the real experts decide if it works or not. I think there should be more control over who can practice homeopathy. If not controlled it will allow unqualified doctors to practice.
Daljit Gandhum, Slough
I do not support the MP conclusions on this matter. My son, who was diagnosed with ASD in 2005 is under the care of a specialist in RHH. We have had great success using this alternative medicine. They have a number of protocols in place which helps these type of children. I also know of many people who have used homeopathy to resolve their health issues such as asthma and eczema. People need choice. Personally I am sceptical on the current overuse of medicines which deal only with the symptom rather than the cause.
Jennifer Hargreaves, Worthing
After much nagging I visited a homeopath and took a course of treatment to prove to my wife that it did not work. So I was astonished when, after years of headaches, antibiotics, an operation under anaesthetic and trying every other remedy I could find, my chronic upper-sinus problems disappeared almost completely. I would happily pay £4000 for the benefit I gained from the initial £40 course. I still take silicea when I suspect symptoms and have not had a sinus headache or sickness for over 20 years. I don't think it was a coincidence as it continues to help, and other homeopathic remedies have also alleviated some more minor health problems. More research would be great as I would love to know why it works.
Nick, Surrey, UK