Doctors will this week call for a total ban on all homoeopathic treatment on the NHS.
Hundreds of delegates to the British Medical Association's conference are expected to support seven motions all opposed to the use of public money to pay for remedies which they claim are, at best, scientifically unproven and, at worst, ineffective.
Critics of the 200-year-old practice also want junior doctors to be exempt from working at homoeopathic hospitals because it goes against the principles of evidence-based medicine. Sugar pills and placebos have no place in a modern health service, they say, especially as the NHS must find £20bn in savings over the next few years.
But supporters claim homoeopathy helps thousands of patients with chronic conditions such as ME, asthma, migraine and depression who have not responded to conventional medical treatments. The British Homoeopathic Association (BHA) points out that less than 0.01 per cent of the massive NHS drug bill is spent on homoeopathic tinctures and pills.
Nevertheless, the conference will also hear calls for homoeopathic remedies to be banned from chemists unless they are clearly labelled as placebos rather than medicines. The over-the-counter market is worth around £40m a year, and rising, according to Mintel, the consumer research organisation.