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European Coalition on Homeopathic & Anthroposophic Medicinal Products

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Following the debate: homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine

18 Jun 2019

In the EU, quality, safety and compliance with manufacturing requirements of homeopathic medicinal products are guaranteed, well-established and well-balanced in pharmaceutical law. Nevertheless, some journalists are ready to criticise homeopathy at every opportunity, demonstrating their own lack of understanding of this system of medicine and the regulation of its products; on the one hand homeopathy is cast as placebo only, and on the other as a poisonous medicine with dangerous consequences. In many cases, the word ‘homeopathy’ is used interchangeably and erroneously by copy editors as a general term for natural medicine, or for therapies or substances which have nothing to do with homeopathy. Stakeholders and scientists across Europe are working hard to provide high quality information on these established and popular systems of medicine. A stronger common narrative is emerging supported by high levels of public awareness and use of these products and very high levels of patient satisfaction. Is it time for some journalists to do a bit more homework before they put pen to paper?

This article provides a round-up of some stories that have recently been in the news, bringing you some of the facts that don’t make it into the media.

World Homeopathy Awareness Week: The fifteenth World Homeopathy Awareness Week was celebrated with activities around the world 10-16th April (and here) and World Homeopathy Day on 10th April, the birthday of founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann. One highlight was a scientific convention in New Delhi, India, organised by the Faculty of Homeopathy in association with CCRH and the Ministry of AYUSH.

Magic Pills: A new film, Magic Pills, by filmmaker and homeopath Ananda More, dissects media campaigns against homeopathy. It is being screened in multiple locations around the world, including US, Ireland, UK, India, Norway, Athens, Bulgaria, Canada and Hong Kong. As Ananda travels the world she uncovers whether homeopathy is truly science-based and effective or a mere placebo that endangers lives. She talks to skeptics, practitioners and patients, seeing how homeopathy is being used to treat cancer in India, support the use of antiretroviral medication for HIV/AIDS in Africa and prevent common epidemics in Cuba. She interviews scientists at university laboratories, learning about cutting edge experiments that demonstrate that science can’t always explain how nature works. The film asks why homeopathy is the target of attacks which disregard ever-growing volumes of compelling data and reveals how individuals are being denied accurate information about their health choices.

France: The public homeopathy debate in France has been vigorous and intense over recent months. Health minister Agnès Buzyn has launched a review of the reimbursement of homeopathy by the French medical system. The French National Authority (HAS), an independent public scientific authority, has been asked to evaluate the efficacy of homeopathy (here); its report has been published and a draft has already been shared with some of the key players in the sector and leaked to the press (herehereherehere in English here). However the debate is still raging (and here), and the health minister will take the final decision, probably later this month. The homeopathy stakeholders have launched MonHomeoMonChoix, an active campaign to defend reimbursement, and its petition has already reached over 1 million signatures. Their campaign and arguments in favour of homeopathy are supported by the publication of a ‘Livre Blanc’, ‘Quelle place pour l’Homeopathie dans l’offre de soins’. A recent survey of doctors and patients, which received widespread media coverage in both professional and consumer media, showed that 72% of the French population is convinced of the benefits of homeopathy. Coverage on the topic is widespread with regular articles in the French professional and consumer press, including among others Quotidien du Médecin, le Moniteur des Pharmacies, le Quotidien du Pharmacien, Le Figaro, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, Alternative Santé, and also in other countries (UK and Belgium). Gerard Collomb, former Minister of the Interior, and Xavier Bertrand, former Health Minister, have spoken out in defence of the industry (herehere and here). Florian Petitjean, President of Weleda France, gave an interview explaining why homeopathy should remain accessible to all those who want to use it. The employees of Boiron wrote about their concerns for their future to the French President, Emmanuel Macron (here).

UK: The decision by National Health Service (NHS) England to stop funding homeopathy in June last year is still making headlines and NHS has been reported as tightening up on doctors who are still prescribing it (hereherehere and here). In Scotland, however, NHS Grampian defends its use of homeopathic remedies for patients and the British Homeopathic Association launches a new clinic  to bring affordable homeopathy to the people of Liverpool.

Germany: Stakeholders in the sector are continuing to contribute to the debate with information about the positive contribution of natural medicine, including facts about homeopathy, while the sceptics, led by well-known detractor from homeopathy, Natalie Grams continue their argumentation online. A written warning Hevert-Arzneimittel sent to Grams because of her statement in a German newspaper that homeopathic remedies work no better than placebo was put on Twitter by Grams and resulted in a flamewar on Hevert’s facebook and twitter page and in anti-homeopathy biased news coverage of the case in some of Germany’s biggest newspapers (and here, here, here, here, here and here. The annual convention of Germany’s biggest homeopathic doctor association in also received negative press. A decision by the German Parliament in March this year means that from May 1st, statutory health insurance funds may no longer offer optional tariffs to cover homeopathy.

Belgium: the consumers’ organisation Test Achats has initiated a media campaign against homeopathy, reported in the Belgian and Brussels media (and here). At the same time, the Belgian homeopathic doctors organisation, Unio Homoeopathica Belgica speaks out in favour of reimbursement of homeopathy.