Homeopathy may be added to a list of blacklisted treatments not supported by the NHS in the UK.
In order to save money, Ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on the blacklist of treatments that GPs are banned from prescribing.
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The Department for Health announced the consultation on Friday, with George Freeman, the minister for life sciences, saying that in a time of rising demand the government had a duty to ensure NHS funds were spent only on the most effective treatments.
“We are currently considering whether or not homeopathic products should continue to be available through NHS prescriptions. We expect to consult on proposals in due course,” Freeman said.
The move comes after the Good Thinking Society threatened to challenge the department’s refusal to add homeopathic products to the NHS’s “schedule 1” blacklist, which details the products NHS doctors cannot prescribe, effectively blocking taxpayer funds from being used for them. It includes more than 3,000 products, ranging from pharmaceutical drugs to Ribena.
Simon Singh, the science writer and founder of the Good Thinking Society, said the decision came after almost a year of pressure on the government: “We’ve been arguing with the Department of Health, saying look, homeopathy by four of your own criteria should be on this list, and they have been going back and forth saying we are not updating the list.
“After many, many months of to-ing and fro-ing they have now agreed to review whether homeopathy should be on the blacklist. They have said it privately, but they have now said it officially.”
The four conditions that Singh said homeopathy failed to meet were whether it was effective, whether it was cost-effective, whether there were cheaper alternatives, and whether it was so widely available on the high street it did not need to be prescribed.
“By any of those criteria homeopathy should be blacklisted,” Singh said. “This is money that could be spent on drugs that do work. It’s not about being anti-homeopathy, it’s about being pro-patient and spending money on drugs that do work.”
Jamie Potter, the public law and human rights partner at law firm Bindmans, which was to represent the Good Thinking Society in a potential judicial review, said: “The NHS blacklist exists to ensure that NHS money is not spent on products that do not work, that work no better than cheaper alternatives, that are not cost-effective or that are widely available inexpensively.