Homeopathy and the NHS - again!
Posted by: Stephen Rigby at 10:42, November 18 2015.

I thought it had all been decided years ago and the NHS would no longer be wasting our money by spending it on homeopathy but I was wrong – here it is again – “Homeopathy on prescription could be banned from NHS”!  The scientific research indicates that homeopathy has no effect other than placebo.  Placebo can account for up to 40% of any therapeutic effect which is pretty significant but any scientific research carried out on a drug must take this into account and prove any claimed effect is due to the drug and not placebo.  There are laws, rules and regulations that are in place to protect us from people who might extort money from us by deception.  Ask yourself if you would prefer to pay £10 for a medicine that will probably cure you or £10 for one that will probably not cure you but if you believe strongly enough it might.

The Power of Placebo

I heard a comment from the British Homeopathy Association saying that homeopathy can have “profound effects”.  Let’s face it, if you have 100 people suffering from a complaint and 40 of them see an improvement in their condition as a result of treatment, that is pretty profound but that would only be within the limits of placebo and scientifically speaking, substituting Smarties for the administered remedy would produce the same effect (and be cheaper).  When one takes into consideration things like self selection and spontaneous remission, even that 40% recovery rate might be exceeded.  When we see someone apparently get well after receiving treatment from an alternative therapist, it is extremely difficult not to accredit their “recovery” to the alternative therapy but in reality, with most alternative therapies, it is more likely to be due to the person’s own immune system and nothing to do with the treatment administered.

Appearing to Work is Not the Same as Working 

Homeopaths claim scientific research to prove that homeopathy works but it is not regarded as sufficiently robust by the majority of science to be considered relevant.  Much of the research into hypnotherapy is also not considered significant but that is because it is extremely difficult to design what is referred to as a “double blind” experiment for hypnotherapy.  A double blind experiment for hypnotherapy would be one where neither the person being treated nor the person administering the treatment knew whether hypnosis was being used or not.  This is, however, a difficulty that does not exist for homeopathy.

Personal Opinion Has Little Value in Science

There are so many different types of complementary and alternative therapies available and each of them claim they are effective.  It is difficult to determine the truth, especially if one is faced with someone who has a strong or fervent belief as to the efficacy of a particular therapy (a belief that may or may not be justified).  Although it is so often used to justify a particular treatment, the comment “it cured me” is, in reality, meaningless as all it means is that the person “got better” during the period they were receiving therapy or shortly after and not that the therapy actually did anything.  One either allows oneself to be tossed and turned with each emerging wonder therapy or default to science.

Why Has Homeopathy Been Called Witchcraft?

Fortunately, people are now more informed about the true nature of hypnosis ; it was always an uninformed comment to claim that hypnosis is in any way an unnatural or occult practice.  It is probably also a little unfair to say “homeopathy is witchcraft” but this comment has been made more than once.  Unfortunately, homeopathy has left itself open to such comments by claiming things like when preparing a homeopathic remedy, it has to be stirred to work but stirring in the wrong direction will stop it working.    

Make Therapies (Including Hypnosis) Prove Themselves Scientifically

Hypnosis has sufficient respect within the medical profession for there to be a Royal Society of Medicine Hypnosis Section (there is no homeopathy section).  Hypnosis is also being increasingly used within medicine and dentistry to assist in treatment and care but is currently only very rarely available on the NHS.  Despite what is currently happening with homeopathy there does seem to be a movement to offer more alternative therapies within the NHS.  Although I feel there should be more use of hypnosis (strictly speaking a complementary therapy not an alternative one), I also believe that only those therapies that pass strict scientific evaluation should be offered by the NHS because without it the quality of our medical treatment will ultimately suffer.