At the risk of being forced to take this posting down, I reprint the whole of an editorial by Michael Baum, the breast cancer specialist, in today's Lancet. I see no reason why it should be hidden behind a paywall.
Homeopath Waives the Rules.
Evidence-free politics was recently on display when the UK's Department of Health rejected a call by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to stop funding the use of homoeopathy in the National Health Service (NHS). This it is claimed will emancipate patients to indulge in choice, even though “His [the Secretary of State for Health] position remains that the evidence of efficacy and the scientific basis of homeopathy is highly questionable”.
Using this kind of logic, why not offer astrology on the NHS to help women decide when to induce labour? It beggars belief that a modern NHS that prides itself on evidence-based medicine should fly in the face of the Science and Technology Committee, which concluded that homoeopathy is nothing other than an elaborate placebo and “involves deceiving the patient every time it is prescribed”. Responding to the Committee, Health Minister Anne Milton said: “We believe in patients being able to make informed choices about their treatment, which includes complementary or alternative treatments such as homeopathy”.
So there you have it: the UK Government supports alternative medicine that by its very nature is nearly all an evidence-free zone. So at a time of financial crisis, Health Minister Andrew Lansley has pledged to continue spending more than £4 million a year to capture the support of a vocal minority. My group has just described a new technique for delivering intraoperative radiotherapy for breast cancer that will save women the 6 weeks of traipsing back and forward to the radiotherapy centre. The sum of money to be spent on homoeopathy over a couple of years could open up this service to all the women in England and Wales who need it, while eventually saving the exchequer about £15 million a year. What's the betting that the introduction of this service will have to wait the approval of the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) while homoeopathy continues to be allowed to creep under that hurdle? As it transpires the Department of Health refuses to ask NICE to investigate homoeopathy. Shame on you, Health Minister.