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Doctors ask NHS to cease funding homeopathy

Homeopathy should no longer be funded by the NHS or marketed as a medicine in pharmacies, according to doctors who voted at the British Medical Association’s annual conference.

Medics who voted dismissed the alternative remedies as “nonsense” and suggested they were potentially harmful to patients who may ignore conventional medicine.

It is estimated that the NHS spends about £4m each year on the 200-year-old system of treatment that uses highly diluted substances.

Dr Mary McCarthy, a GP from Shropshire, said that from hundreds of trials that homeopathy worked beyond the placebo effect there was no evidence to suggest it did. 

McCarthy added: "It can do harm by diverting patients from conventional medical treatments."

Despite being classed by some in the medical profession as a watery science, other doctors spoke out in favour of homeopathy.

Dr John Garner, a GP from Edinburgh, said a ban would, “deprive patients who have had a benefit."

Dr David Shipstone, a urologist from the East Midlands, said there are plenty of treatments which were used by doctors, despite a lack of categorical evidence they worked, so it would be unfair to single out homeopathy.

The cost of homeopathy on the NHS seems relatively low at 0.001% of the £11bn drugs budget, but the Department of Health said it was looking into the issue.

"The department is considering issues to do with homeopathic remedies and hospitals as part of the government's response to the Science and Technology Committee's report on homeopathy. The response will be issued soon."