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NHS Homeopathy and the Chief Scientific Adviser

The Government’s chief scientific adviser, try Sir John Beddington said this week that ‘patients might believe that homeopathic treatments could protect them against serious illnesses, malady or treat existing conditions, seek because GPs and hospitals are allowed to prescribe them on the NHS.’

Does this really constitute scientific advice? Is it appropriate to make such an authoritarian comment after this issue has been fully debated in Parliament and two successive Governments have given considerable thought to this issue and then expressed very different views to his about NHS homeopathy:

Labour Minister of Health, Mike O’Brien: (Dec 1, 2009) “We take the view that it is not our job to stop clinicians prescribing these medications if they feel they are appropriate… cutting the (NHS) funding would be “illiberal” and “a denial of personal choice”

Coalition Minister of Health, Anne Milton: (July 26, 2010 – the official government decision on the issue) Homeopathy has a “long tradition… and that local National Health Service and clinicians are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients”.

Sir John Beddington is not a medical doctor. He is however an internationally renowned specialist in the economics and biology of sustainable management of renewable resources and has previously advised UK ministers on scientific and environmental issues. May I humbly suggest that instead of insulting GPs who choose to send their patients for homeopathic treatment with the full support of this government and the last, he pays some attention to the connection between his specialist field, the environment, and homeopathic medicine.

I recommend he google the words: ‘Sustainability’ ‘Homeopathy’ ‘Environment’. In an excellent article on this, Joel Kreisberg, writes: “In ecological terms, homeopathic remedies never exhaust natural resources; there is negligible environmental impact and no question of over-consumption. Remedies meet the criteria for both renewable and sustainable sources of medicine. Compared to the waste stream produced by pharmacological manufacturing and by hospitals, the waste produced by a homeopathic pharmacy is infinitely small. No waste is produced from the original material; it is all used. And no harmful chemicals or complex reagents are used in the manufacturing process.”

I do not wish to denigrate pharmaceuticals, many of which have tremendous value in medicine. But homeopathy has value too and is clearly also very, very environment friendly.

Ed and Liz discuss this in Episode 3.

By | 2010-10-30T18:19:54+00:00 October 30th, 2010|Current Affairs, Homeopathy|5 Comments

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  1. Gentian Shapiro October 31, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    This is the best cartoon yet. Fabulous rendition of what is actually going on – Liz and Ed, digitally driven have little affect but plenty of attitude! Congratulations 🙂

  2. Mauricio-José Schwarz November 1, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    You do have, of course, proof that homeopathy works beyond placebo. If Beddington isn’t a doctor, neither are the Health Ministers that act politically and under pressure. That is not science, either. So please, be provocative, show the unquestionable scientific proof. You’ve had more than 200 years to find some.

    • Dr. Kaplan November 1, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      @ Mauricio-José Schwarz
      My position is clear: It is disingenuous beyond belief to use EBM as a blunt instrument to attack homeopathy exclusively. There ARE RCTs and outcome studies that show results. However many, many orthodox interventions are not evidence based.
      Am I being unreasonable in calling for one level of evidence for ALL NHS interventions. Why don’t you ask for evidence for anti-depressants whose NHS budget alone is 20x that of homeopathic medicines? As for John Beddington. This is scientific advice for which we pay him £150 000 a year for? Come on Mauricio, government ministers have to make decisions based on democracy and science – which is what they have done. Pressure? It’s the anti-homeopathic brigade that seems to have the money and the media on their side. What ‘pressure’ are you talking about?

  3. Fritz Kabongo November 7, 2010 at 1:28 am


    What do you think of curcumin? It is returning with some robust science to back up early evidence that it may be very useful for certain illnesses. Patients should probably wait for years before it is proven to work via robust clinical trials, right?

    Curcumin, An Atoxic Antioxidant and Natural NFκB, Cyclooxygenase-2, Lipooxygenase, and Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Inhibitor: A Shield Against Acute and Chronic Diseases

    1. Stig Bengmark, MD, PhD, FRACS (hon), FRCPS (hon)

    From the Institute of Hepatology, University College, London Medical School, London, United Kingdom

    1. Correspondence: Stig Bengmark, MD, PhD, FRACS (hon), FRCPS (hon), 185 Barrier Point Road, Royal Docks, London, E16 2SE, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to s.bengmark@ucl.ac.uk.


    Background: The world suffers a tsunami of chronic diseases, and a typhoon of acute illnesses, many of which are associated with the inappropriate or exaggerated activation of genes involved in inflammation. Finding therapeutic agents which can modulate the inflammatory reaction is the highest priority in medical research today. Drugs developed by the pharmaceutical industry have thus far been associated with toxicity and side effects, which is why natural substances are of increasing interest. Methods: A literature search (PubMed) showed almost 1500 papers dealing with curcumin, most from recent years. All available abstracts were read. Approximately 300 full papers were reviewed. Results: Curcumin, a component of turmeric, has been shown to be non-toxic, to have antioxidant activity, and to inhibit such mediators of inflammation as NFκB, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipooxygenase (LOX), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Significant preventive and/or curative effects have been observed in experimental animal models of a number of diseases, including arteriosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, respiratory, hepatic, pancreatic, intestinal and gastric diseases, neurodegenerative and eye diseases. Conclusions: Turmeric, an approved food additive, or its component curcumin, has shown surprisingly beneficial effects in experimental studies of acute and chronic diseases characterized by an exaggerated inflammatory reaction. There is ample evidence to support its clinical use, both as a prevention and a treatment. Several natural substances have greater antioxidant effects than conventional vitamins, including various polyphenols, flavonoids and curcumenoids. Natural substances are worth further exploration both experimentally and clinically.


    This compound was possibly quite ‘successfully’ used over 70 years ago for conditions such as cirrhosis. We must recognize that in some illnesses, for which there is often nothing proven to prescribe, leaps of faith then become legitimate. Both orthodox and unorthodox medicine are candidates for the leaps. Short of MD advice, patients will take stuff without supervision. Desperation is quite a motivator! Fools would ignore good clues…..

    Fritz Kabongo MD

    • Dr. Kaplan November 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      @ Kabongo: Obviously nobody should be allowed to use this until:
      1. A way can be found to package, medicalise it and sell it as a drug.
      2. It’s decided exactly who in Big Pharma is going to make money out of it.
      3. Those who stand to lose by it becoming well known have been suitably compensated or ‘bought off’.

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