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UK will not ban Homeopathy

world Updated: Jul 27, 2010 21:41 IST

Britain will not ban homeopathy from government hospitals despite a top committee condemning it as medically unproven while the treatment was described as "nonsense on stilts" by some doctors in London.

Health minister Anne Milton said complementary and alternative medicine "has a long tradition" and very vocal people both in favour of it and against it.

A report by a group of MPs said homeopathic medicine should no longer be funded on the National Health Service (NHS) and called for a ban on the medicines carrying medical claims on their labels.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee said there is no evidence the drugs are any more effective than a placebo - the same as taking a sugar or dummy pill and believing it works.

Last month, doctors attending the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference backed this view, saying homeopathic remedies should be banned on the NHS and taken off pharmacy shelves where they are sold as medicines.

The treatment was described as "nonsense on stilts" and that patients would be better off buying bottled water.

Milton said the Government welcomed the MPs' report but "remain of the view that the local National Health Service and clinicians are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients," the Telegraph reported.

These decisions should take account of safety, and clinical and cost effectiveness, she said, adding that the Government remained committed to providing good-quality information on the treatments.

Homeopathy, which dates back 200-years, has been funded on the NHS since the service's inception in 1948.

It differs from herbal medicine in that it relies on substances being diluted many times, something the MPs said could not be scientifically proved to work.

There are four homeopathic hospitals in the UK, in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Estimates on how much the NHS spends on homeopathy vary, with the Society of Homeopaths putting the figure at £4 million a year including the cost of running hospitals.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who was a member of the Science and Technology Committee when it published its report, said: "This is not a good start for the new Health Secretary when it comes to evidence-based policy.

"How does the Government justify allowing treatments that do not work to be provided by the NHS in the name of choice, when it allows medicines which do work to be banned from NHS use?"