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Homeopathy prescriptions falling

24 July 08 14:11 GMT

GP prescriptions for homeopathy have nearly halved in two years, figures show.

The number of prescriptions dropped from 83,000 in 2005 to 49,300 last year, GP magazine Pulse reported.

It comes as the overall number of prescriptions in England is on the rise.

Critics said it represented a shift in attitude against the alternative medicine, but supporters said it was more complex than that.

The therapy is based on the principle of treating like with like.

For instance, someone with an allergy who was using homeopathic medicines would attempt to beat it with an ultra-diluted dose of an agent that would cause the same symptoms.

Previous research has also shown that half of England's primary care trusts are either not funding or restricting access to homeopathy products.

Nearly 800m prescriptions were written by GPs last year - up from 720m in 2005, Prescription Pricing Authority figures show.

But the total spend on homeopathy by GPs in 2007 was £321,000 - just 0.006% of the total prescribing budget - compared with £593,000 in 2005.

Attitude

Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and a vocal critic of homeopathy, said the huge drop in prescribing reflected a shift in attitude within the medical profession.

"The figures reflect a more critical attitude on homeopathy and a shift towards evidence-based medicine.

"The trend is bound to increase as the evidence that homeopathic remedies are pure placebos is getting stronger."

A spokeswoman for the British Homeopathic Association said homeopathy prescriptions had been falling for the last 10 years.

But she added it was too complex to say GPs were turning against the therapy, suggesting collection methods may miss some homeopathy therapies.

She said many were handwritten as they were not on computer lists and therefore may not have been logged.

She added: "We do know that there is no evidence to show that GPs are shunning homeopathy, nor is there evidence to show patients are not seeking homeopathy due to adverse press coverage."

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