NHS funding for homeopathy risks misleading patients, says chief scientist

Patients are at risk of being misled over the benefits of homeopathy by the government's decision to fund the remedies on the NHS, the country's most senior scientist warned today.

Sir John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser, said patients might believe homeopathic treatments could protect them against serious illnesses, or treat existing conditions, because GPs and hospitals are allowed to prescribe them on the NHS.

Tens of thousands of people are given homeopathic pills and other preparations by their GPs or at Britain's four homeopathic hospitals, at an estimated cost to the NHS of between £4m and £10m a year. Most homeopathic remedies are diluted multiple times to the point that only water is left, while others are essentially sugar pills.

Professor Beddington said ministers agreed to fund homeopathy on the grounds of "public choice", despite there being "no real evidence" that the remedies work.

"I have made it completely clear that there is no scientific basis for homeopathy beyond the placebo effect and that there are serious concerns about its efficacy," Professor Beddington told the Commons science and technology committee today.

He went on to warn that government funding for homeopathy risked legitimising unproven treatments and that patients could harm their health by choosing these over conventional vaccines and medicines.

"There is a danger that the public will think that there is real efficacy for some serious conditions and I believe we have to work on that and make clear that this is not correct," he told the committee.

Source - Guardian