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Homoeopathy and the placebo effect

I wonder how many pharmacists found the BBC Horizon programme (17 February 2014) about the effectiveness of placebos thought-provoking. The high success rates quoted were certainly impressive (up to 60 per cent patient satisfaction in some cases). When the programme went on to say that the conundrum is how best to use this significant beneficial effect, it occurred to me that we already have such a method, albeit a sadly maligned one. It is called homoeopathy.

Unfortunately, the NHS, in its fervour to ensure all patients are offered robustly proven treatments, is steadily withdrawing funding for this useful service. The reason for this seems to be that, rather than counting total patient benefit from this form of treatment, it has been disparaged as being “no more effective than placebo response” as if this equates with “totally ineffective”, which is clearly not the case. In my view this is short-sighted and unfortunate for all those patients who could have enjoyed the safe and effective treatment that inducing the placebo response can bring.

After so much bad press I fear it may not be possible to resurrect homoeopathy as a first choice alternative to conventional medicine, but it must surely be desirable to find some practical way to use the placebo response for the numerous conditions for which it is appropriate.

This must have the potential to save the NHS a fortune in drugs bills and, more importantly, reduce patient morbidity from iatrogenic disease.

Jeanette Stafford


Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11135451

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