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Following the debate: homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine in the news

06 Jun 2017

The public debate on homeopathy continues…  here is the latest version of our regular round up of recent stories in the news in Europe and around the world about homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine. We go behind the headlines, providing useful background and links, to show all angles of the debate.

  • The media ripples continue, following the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) warning to consumers that homeopathic teething tablets and gels may pose a risk to infants and children and that it is conducting an investigation following reports of adverse events; the situation in Europe is clarified by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)’s confirmation that homeopathic teething products licensed in the UK are safe, Health Canada’s  statement confirming there are no safety concerns for the products in Canada or Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) in Ireland confirmation of the safety of licensed products. Media coverage (here also) in Germany in late February also included a statement from Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM) confirming that products licensed in Germany are also safe. Further coverage focuses on US manufacturers recalling products from the market; recent news (and here) shows they are also recalling product sold in Australia. 
  • The World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicinal Products was held in Delhi, India in February, organised by the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddah and Homeopathy (AYUSH); Indian media reported on the event and its constructive outcomes. 
  • In February we reported on a memorandum on homeopathy released in Russia by the Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research, a committee of the Russian Academy of Science, which argued that homeopathy should have no place in the Russian health care system; it made recommendations to the ministry of health and other bodies to restrict the use and availability of homeopathic treatment and homeopathic products. The story was covered in the media in Germany and UK. A more recent article (May) shows that officials have not yet decided to take these recommendations on board; others have argued that the Memorandum may have been biased or paid for.
  • On 29 March, David Tedinnick MP introduced a debate in the British Parliament, ‘Homeopathy and the NHS’; in his opening speech, he introduced Homeopathy Awareness Week, acknowledged the millions of patients who choose to use homeopathy and outlined the status of homeopathy in the UK; he described the attack on homeopathy in the National Health Service; in response, David Mowat MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, set out the Government and the NHS’s position on homeopathic medicines; the UK Secretary of State for Health has also been subject to a series of written questions about homeopathy from Andrew Gwynne MP.
  • A new 70-minute documentary about homeopathy, ‘Just One Drop’ was premièred in London in April; the trailer is now available on-line and the Director is beginning a two year world tour to stimulate the debate about homeopathy. One review gives a good summary of the film.
  • The debate about homeopathy continues in the German speaking countries too: in April, an article in the Austrian ‘Kurier’, ‘For and Against: What can homeopathy do?’ brings a supporter and a critic of homeopathy together to debate the potential of homeopathy while in Germany, General Anzeiger also considers the pros and cons of homeopathy.
  • The Charity Commission in the UK is reviewing the charitable status of complementary medicine charities, which currently brings both tax benefits and status. In various articles (here and here), the British Homeopathic Association (UK patients) defends itself against these attacks.
  • Widespread media coverage at the end of May on the tragic story of a child in Italy who died of an ear infection has made much of the fact the child was treated with homeopathy; the story has been on mainstream TV in Italy (Rai 1 – Porta a Porta, Rai 3: 21:20) and widely reported in France, Germany and Spain. Dr Francesco Negro, one of the chief homeopathic medical authorities in Italy, clarified that this case is not about homeopathy but most likely about malpractice. The following organisations have issued press statements on this incident: Società Italiana di Omeopatia e Medicina e Integrata (SIOMI), Società Medica Bioterapica (SMB Italia), Federazione Italiana Associazioni e Medici Omeopati (FIAMO), Syndicat National des Médicins Homéopathes Franҫais (SNMHF), Deutscher Zentralverein homöopathischer Ärtzte (DZVhÄ) and Bundesverband der Arzneimittel-Hersteller (BAH), emphasising the safety of homeopathy when used as part of an integrated approach to medicine, whereby pharmacological medicines should be used when needed. Registered homeopathic doctors are required to follow a code of practice with patient safety as paramount.
  • The New Zealand press reports on a Swiss study highlighting horse owners’ use of complementary and alternative therapies; the study shows that osteopathy was the most commonly used CAM discipline (52.9%), followed by homeopathy (22%).
  • An opinion piece in the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung confronts critics of homeopathy, arguing that there are simply too few studies into homeopathy to allow for a proper appraisal of the effectiveness of homeopathy because no one wants to conduct or pay for them. He contends there is sufficient evidence to merit proper investigation.