About Homeopathy » Regulation and prevalence

Homeopathy is fairly common in some countries while being uncommon in others; is highly regulated in some countries and mostly unregulated in others. It is practised worldwide and professional qualifications and licences are needed in most countries.[23] Regulations vary in Europe depending on the country. In some countries, there are no specific legal regulations concerning the use of homeopathy, while in others, licences or degrees in conventional medicine from accredited universities are required. In Germany, to become a homeopathic physician, one must attend a three-year training program, while France, Austria and Denmark mandate licences to diagnose any illness or dispense of any product whose purpose is to treat any illness.[23] Some homeopathic treatment is covered by the public health service of several European countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Luxembourg. In other countries, such as Belgium, homeopathy is not covered. In Austria, the public health service requires scientific proof of effectiveness in order to reimburse medical treatments and homeopathy is listed as not reimbursable[174] but exceptions can be made;[175] private health insurance policies sometimes include homeopathic treatment.[23] The Swiss government, after a 5-year trial, withdrew homeopathy and four other complementary treatments in 2005, stating that they did not meet efficacy and cost-effectiveness criteria,[176] but following a referendum in 2009 the five therapies are to be reinstated for a further 6-year trial period from 2012.[177] The Indian government recognises homeopathy as one of its national systems of medicine,[178] and a minimum of a recognised diploma in homeopathy and registration on a state register or the Central Register of Homoeopathy is required to practice homeopathy in India.[179]

In the United Kingdom, MPs inquired into homeopathy to assess the Government's policy on the issue, including funding of homeopathy under the National Health Service and government policy for licensing homeopathic products. The decision by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee follows a written explanation from the Government in which it told the select committee that the licensing regime was not formulated on the basis of scientific evidence. "The three elements of the licensing regime (for homeopathic products) probably lie outside the scope of the ... select committee inquiry, because government consideration of scientific evidence was not the basis for their establishment," the Committee said. The inquiry sought written evidence and submissions from concerned parties.[180][181]

In February 2010 the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that:

    ... the NHS should cease funding homeopathy. It also concludes that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy. As they are not medicines, homeopathic products should no longer be licensed by the MHRA.

    The Committee concurred with the Government that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.

    The Committee concluded - given that the existing scientific literature showed no good evidence of efficacy - that further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified.

    In the Committee's view, homeopathy is a placebo treatment and the Government should have a policy on prescribing placebos. The Government is reluctant to address the appropriateness and ethics of prescribing placebos to patients, which usually relies on some degree of patient deception. Prescribing of placebos is not consistent with informed patient choice - which the Government claims is very important - as it means patients do not have all the information needed to make choice meaningful.

    Beyond ethical issues and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, prescribing pure placebos is bad medicine. Their effect is unreliable and unpredictable and cannot form the sole basis of any treatment on the NHS.[3]
The Committee also stated:
    We conclude that placebos should not be routinely prescribed on the NHS. The funding of homeopathic hospitals - hospitals that specialise in the administration of placebos - should not continue, and NHS doctors should not refer patients to homeopaths.[182]
In July 2010 the newly appointed UK Secretary of State for Health deferred to local NHS on funding homeopathy. A nineteen page document details the Government's response, and it states that "our continued position on the use of homeopathy within the NHS is that the local NHS and clinicians, rather than Whitehall, are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients - including complementary or alternative treatments such as homeopathy - and provide accordingly for those treatments." The response also stated that "the overriding reason for NHS provision is that homeopathy is available to provide patient choice".[183] by February 2011 only one third of PCTs still funded homeopathy.[184]

In 2012 in the United Kingdom, Derby University dropped its homeopathy program, and the University of Westminster ceased enrolling new homeopathy students. Salford University had dropped its homeopathy program the previous year.[185]