Study from Oxford on “Best Practice” of homeopathic doctors

Lesedauer / Reading Time: 3 min
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A frequently used argument in favour of homeopathy (which, however, has nothing to do with its effectiveness) is that homeopathic treatments lead to fewer prescriptions for conventional pharmaceutical drugs. One hears this again and again. Spontaneously, we think of the presentation of the EPI 3 study in France by the Boiron company, also of the recent statements (2018) by the French Minister of Health, Mme Buzyn, who saw the decisive advantage of homeopathy precisely in the avoidance of “toxic medicines”, and very recently of the “Berlin Economic Talks” that just took place on 19.04.2018, where the corresponding results of member surveys within the German Central Association of Homeopathic Doctors were emphatically brought into the field.

Now, one can rightly counter this point of view first of all by saying that it is after all to be expected systemically that a homeopathic doctor also prescribes fewer “conventional” medicines, similar to the plausible example that a baker certainly sells less meat than a butcher and vice versa. Anything else would be quite surprising in the case of a correct investigation. Insofar as – as is often the case – homeopathy is used for self-limiting minor health disorders, however, one could also assume that both homeopathic and pharmaceutical remedies would have been better replaced in both cases by responsible waiting. Which would require better prescribing practices by non-homeopathic doctors, but would not justify homeopathy. But that is another chapter.

A new study from Oxford University led by Ben Goldacre puts the prescribing question in a very different light,

This study looked at all 7618 primary care practices in England whose data on drug use is available from NHS statistics. Goldacre’s team found that the 644 practices that had prescribed homeopathic preparations clearly scored worse than the other practices in the overall assessment of 70 standards of good prescribing practice. The results may reflect that the principles of evidence-based practice are seen as negligible, Goldacre said.

In addition to the excessive (sic!) use of antibiotics, ineffective dosages of cholesterol-lowering drugs and the use of expensive brand-name drugs instead of cheaper generics were also criticised.

Of course, this is not proof of a causality between homeopathy affinity and generally poor medical practice. But the study concludes:

‘Undoubtedly [the] propensity for homeopathy is correlated with a lower appreciation and implementation of evidence-based medical practice and/or a lower quality of multidisciplinary teamwork in optimising treatment.”

And that is very unfortunate.