Glasgow NHS Homeopathy Pharmacy Axed

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The ratchet on NHS homeopathy continues to turn. It would appear that the homeopathic pharmacy at the Glasgow Homeopathy Hospital has been closed.

A note to local GPs is reminding them that they have no obligation to fill the hole left by this closure by prescribing homeopathy if patients ask for it.

The Glasgow Local Medical Committee notes that there has been a sudden surge in requests from patients to prescribe homeopathic sugar pills after they have been unable to get them at the hospital.

The Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital began its life as a homeopathic dispensary in 1880. According to the historian of homeopathy in the UK, Peter Morrell, the hospital grew rapidly in the 1930’s and finally moved to its current location, at the Gartnavel General Hospital Site, in 1999.

After spending millions on the designer facilities at Gartnavel, the running costs have been around £2 million per year. But now, the hospital appears to be in almost certain terminal decline.

Scottish commissioners have been refusing to pay for patients to be referred to the homeopaths and the BMA has called for all health boards to stop funding. Certainly spelling eventual doom was the decision to stop paying for doctors to be trained in homeopathy at the hospital.

Closing their own pharmacy was undoubtedly a way of saving precious cash. However, without patients being able to access their sugar pills immediately, the ability for doctors to play at homeopathy is being squeezed. As the note to GPs makes clear, they are under no obligation to fill the gap. The letter states,

GPs have no obligation to prescribe homeopathic remedies where they do
not feel competent or trained to do so or if they do not believe them to be
therapeutic.

The fact that a GP agreed to refer a patient to the Homeopathic hospital
does not oblige the GP to issue a homeopathic remedy.

However, if a GP wishes to prescribe a homeopathic remedy, a prescription can
be written in the normal way.

Patients will now be dependent on GPs feeling confident they can ethically and competently write a homeopathic prescription. What is a shame is that the letter still panders to the idea that you can obtain competence by being trained in homeopathy. A trained homeopath is no more able to get their sugar pills to work than a trained astrologer is able to predict the future. It is a training in delusion.

Most GPs will know this and so patients may be in a tight spot.

Outside of the NHS, sourcing homeopathic products looks likely to get harder and harder. On Monday, the medicines regulator, the MHRA, stated that it had told Boots the Chemist to remove all point of sale material describing claims for homeopathy. Boots had been breaking the law regarding making unlicensed and unfounded claims for the sugar pills. Without such point-of-sale material, it is difficult to see how homeopathy on the High Street can be profitable as it will now rely on customers being confident in the esoteric knowledge about what each remedy is supposedly for. Boots almost certainly was relying on customers being confused into thinking that because they were ‘reputable’ and that the sugar pills were sold next to genuine medical products that they actually worked and were not superstitious nonsense. (You can check on your own local Boots with the help of this letter from the Nightingale Collaboration.)

Over the coming months, we are likely to see greater pressure on the MHRA to clamp down on the widespread ignoring of the law by retailers of homeopathic products. I would not be surprised if we saw some business failures of the few homeopathic product manufacturers in the UK.

But back to the NHS. What the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital does is wrong. And so its troubles are to be welcomed. The British Homeopathic Association, the lobby group for doctors stuck in the intellectual black hole of homeopathy, states that Glasgow focuses on helping people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Now, whilst it is true that mainstream medicine has few answers for this condition, this does not justify funnelling such patients into the hands of doctors who think sugar pills are the answer.

No doubt, the hospital will be able to claim patients are very satisfied with their offering. But this is problematic on two counts. Firstly, I have no doubt that the staff at Glasgow offer good care – but care is not the same as treatment. And secondly, CFS is a hard to understand condition where some patients can be violently opposed to the idea that their illness may have a psychological component. Researchers have been abused and received death threats for publishing studies that challenged popular ideas that the illness is caused by a virus.

No doubt patients may find some affinity with the homeopathic hospital that offers a pill for their ill and in doing so is ‘taking them seriously’. But such an approach may actually be further medicalising CFS patients and could be reinforcing harmful beliefs.

Homeopaths claim to treat ‘the whole person’. This is a lie. This is not patient-centred medicine. It is dogma-centred pseudo-medicine. No matter who walks through the door, a sugar pill will be waiting for them. Or rather, it would have been. And that is a step in the right direction.

46 comments for “Glasgow NHS Homeopathy Pharmacy Axed

  1. Andrew Gilbey
    November 16, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Result!

  2. Badly Shaved Monkey
    November 16, 2011 at 8:08 am

    “Researchers have been abused and received death threats for publishing studies that challenged popular ideas that the illness is caused by a virus.”

    I have sometimes wondered whether these CFS patients can see the irony of this, screaming “I’m not a loony!” while beating you over the head with a rubber chicken.

    I remember the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital from childhood. My Dad lived just down the road from it and I often wondered what went on in a “homeopathic hospital”. Now I know. Not much.

  3. November 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Wonderful news!

    A few years ago I attended a talk given by Dr David Reilly of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. He started his talk with a claim there were some 200 positive trials for homeopathy. Thereafter he refused point blank to talk about homeopathy and he disregarded any challenges to the principles of homeopathy from the audience, stating he hadn’t come to discuss it. What he’d come to talk about was the work of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital and what he took an hour to say could be summed up thus:

    Give some people a lovely, tranquil environment, a lot of time, a listening ear and a good bedside manner and they start to feel better regardless of any sugar pills.

  4. Tom Carter
    November 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Great News!

    Hopefully the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital will be next!

  5. November 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Would it be too much to hope that now Glaswegian GPs can’t wash their hands of their woo-infected patients by referring them to the hospital, they’ll start doing a bit more education about homeopathy and why it isn’t even close to real medicine?

    Something tells me there’ll be a boom of online homeopathic “pharmacies”.

    • Le Canard Noir
      November 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      It is almost certain that any online homeopathic pharmacy would be operating illegally. Sales of sugar-pills-as-medicine is going to be the next hotspot for action against this dangerous nonsense.

  6. eagerreader
    November 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    This is great news and not before time. I have been following this blog for ages and it is a beacon of light in what seems to be a sea of misinformation. As skepticat says – give people a lovely tranquil environment, a lot of time and a good bedside manner and they will benefit immediately. Homeopaths do very well as counsellors, and the rest is giving people a feeling of self worth, and being in control of their situation. Sugar pills are not necessary!

  7. November 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I don’t think most glasgow GPs lack education about homeopathy – CoI – I am one. However; the homeopathic hospital exists, and patients are entitled to be referred there, unfortunately. Of course, this should only happen after a discussion about the evidence base. The way forward is to close the hospital – but to reinvest the money into providing more time for primary care doctors like me to provide quality consultations for ALL patients – not just only people who are prepared to believe in homeopathy.

    The quality of fittings in the homeopathic hospital contrasts sharply with the state of certain psychiatric wards in the Glasgow area – to our great collective shame.

  8. Lothian
    November 17, 2011 at 10:17 am

    We know the fewer active elements the stronger the effect. This strengthening of homeopathy can be celebrated by skeptics and homeopths alike.

  9. November 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    So, the people who derived benefit from homeopathy will now drain the NHS of it precious resources by some other, possibly more expensive means?

  10. AndyD
    November 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Just to be clear, when you write “people who derived benefit from homeopathy”, are you referring to the homeopaths?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      November 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      He must have done. He’d be mad to think sugar pills fixed actual patients.

      I expect he’s just a one-post wonder. But perhaps he’ll return to expand on his ideas.

      • Onepostwonder
        November 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

        This has nothing whatsoever to do with patients having to stop homeopathic treatment. It is just about saving money by closing a pharmacy when all the homeopathic prescriptions can be purchased in town or sent by mail. It is a good cost cutting decision.

      • Le Canard Noir
        November 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm

        I wouldn’t rely on people being able to buy remedies by post for much longer. Much of it is illegal and a clamp down is quite possible.

      • TwoPostWonder
        November 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

        What government in its right mind is going to risk an outcry by suddenly stopping millions of people from their right to buy ‘sugar pills’at £10 a go- if that is what they want to do?

      • Le Canard Noir
        November 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

        The government has already said that it is up to local PCTs and funding bodies to decide. That is what they are doing. And it looks like they are getting on with quietly, as they have done here. In the current chaos of reorgs and funding limits, I doubt anyone is going to notice. Liverpool Homeopathic hospital has slipped away. I see no reason why the ratchet will not continue to turn.

      • Mojo
        November 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

        “The government has already said that it is up to local PCTs and funding bodies to decide.”

        Which, remember, was hailed by the homoeopaths as a victory for homoeopathy over the evil Select Committee.

  11. DR ABHAY CHHEDA
    November 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    sorry to say, “ONE DAY YOU YOURSELF WILL SUFFER SO BADLY AND YOU WILL NEED RIGHT TREATMENT TO HEAL YOU AND YOU WILL NOT GET IT. YOU ARE A SADIST” -

    • Le Canard Noir
      November 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      DR ABHAY CHHEDA would appear to be a homeopath. Apparently, some sort of health care professional.

      • Dr. Abhay chheda
        November 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

        Sir, What would you say if TUMOR goes away, if Hernia Heals, if Fistula Heals, If whole body Psoriasis Heals completely, if PCOD Heals, if Uterine Fibroids disappear, if Tuberculosis Heals, if Leucoderma improves, if Hypothyroidism becomes normal etc – All because of Homoeopathic Treatment ONLY what would you infer about such a system ?

      • Le Canard Noir
        November 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

        If you ascribed any benefits to homeopathic sugar pills, I would infer that you were incompetent, deluded and dangerous.

        Does that answer your question?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      November 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      And your CAPS-LOCK key is stuck

      By the way, if I was actually ill I’d go and see a real doctor for advice or some real medicine now some sugar-peddling wanker.

      • Dr. Dinesh Khade
        November 23, 2011 at 10:32 am

        First try to find a REAL DOCTOR who will heal your thought process ideally and Holistically. Do you know why people should go in disease phase ?? Try to understand the REAL SCIENCE OF HEALING — HOMOEOPATHY

    • Mojo
      November 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      @DR ABHAY CHHEDA

      “sorry to say, “ONE DAY YOU YOURSELF WILL SUFFER SO BADLY AND YOU WILL NEED RIGHT TREATMENT TO HEAL YOU AND YOU WILL NOT GET IT. YOU ARE A SADIST””

      Who is a sadist? You are the one who is fantasising about people suffering. In all caps.

  12. deetee
    November 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Dr Khade, can you expand on the concept of getting my “thought process healed ideally and holistically”?
    Preferably in eords that are both sensible and comprehensible.

  13. Will
    November 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Mr. Chheda,

    While you’re here, any chance of a reply to the responses (from BSM and me) to your 20/11/11 comments on the “Homeopaths Through the Looking-Glass” (October 20, 2007) article?

    Ta,

    Will.

  14. Lennox
    November 29, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Le temps ne fait rien a l’affaire
    Quand on est con, on est con
    Qu’on ait vingt ans qu’on soit grand-père
    Quand on est con, on est con

    You guys are such idiots that think yourselves so smart!
    Keep beating on homeopathy and keep you freakin chronic conditions
    I am rid of mine thanks to homeopathy
    And you are still stupid!!!!

    Oh yes I must be delusional
    Oh yes I must be dreaming
    None of it can be true
    Because you guys are fucking enlightened, aren’t you?
    You just KNOW that it is not possible for them sugar pills to work, do you?

    It cured a family member of mine from ALS!!!
    All the other ALS patients are DEAD!!!!
    Just as dead as your brain function

    It’s about time someone insulted you
    You high and mighty pretentious empty rats

    Your whole royal family uses homeopathy
    They are better than you are, you skeptic pigs!!!!

    The world is much larger than your narrow ideas and your tiny minds.
    You are winning now, you are killing homeopathy

    Shame shame shame on you!!!!!!

    • Will
      November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Hi Lennox,

      What an amazing homeopathy success story. A miracle like that, such conclusive proof, must have been published somewhere (after all, wouldn’t the homeopath want the world to know?). Would you tell us where?

      I just have a couple of quick questions, if you wouldn’t mind:

      Q1) When was your family member diagnosed with ALS?

      Q2) Who has verified that the condition is “cured”?

      From Wikipedia: “The median survival time from onset to death ranges from 20 to 48 months, but 10 to 20% of ALS patients have a survival longer than 10 years. The world’s most widely recognized person with ALS, Stephen Hawking, has lived with the disease for more than 40 years, though his is an unusual case.”

  15. Badly Shaved Monkey
    November 29, 2011 at 7:45 am

    “It cured a family member of mine from ALS!!!”

    Citation, please.

    “You are winning now, you are killing homeopathy”

    Also, do you have evidence to support this welcome news?

  16. Lennox
    December 1, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Graham’s data indicate that 140,000 Americans suffered Vioxx-induced heart attacks and strokes; 55,000 died, and many more were permanently disabled. The Merck executives’ real crime was conspiracy to commit murder.

    Find me a homeopathic remedy that has killed 55,000 people!!!!

    • Will
      December 1, 2011 at 9:13 am

      Hi again Lennox.

      You said earlier “All the other ALS patients are DEAD!!!!” and I have told you that this was wrong (see Stephen Hawking and facts and stuff). Interesting that you haven’t responded to this.

      I also asked you two simple questions, the answers to which I suspect will show that your family member was not ‘cured’ by homeopathy at all. Strong stuff, no?

      Are you another ‘shout then cover your ears and go la-la-la’ merchant?

      I look forward to your answers.

  17. Badly Shaved Monkey
    December 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    What?

    You were asked for a citation for this quotation, “It cured a family member of mine from ALS!!!”

    As to the perils of conventional medicine, fortunately homeopathy is generally used by fools for trivial illnesses. If there was ever a systematic attempt to treat dangerous or severe illness with it the death rate would be measured in the millions because you would have returned us to the 18th century.

    So, do yourself a favour and answer properly about you claimed “cure” of ALS.

  18. Lennox
    December 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    100,000 killed yearly in the US alone by prescription drugs……who are the fools.
    If I find a way the get the hospital documents, I will scan them and email them to you.
    Even though I know no proof would ever convince you.

    • Chris
      December 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      So what? Even if you had proof, it does not prove homeopathy works. You cannot prove that homeopathy works by saying something else does not work. You can only prove homeopathy works by showing that it actually works.

      You can do this by providing well documented cases (by unbiased third parties, not homeopaths) that homeopathy cured a non-self-limited condition, without any other intervention. Suggestions for conditions would be type 1 diabetes and rabies.

    • December 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm

      Lennox

      This topic is to do with the uselessness of nonsense like homeopathy and its funding by the tax payer. However, if you want to bring up the numbers of iatrogenic deaths, please only do so if you also detail the numbers of lives saved by conventional medicine, the number of people living longer and with a higher quality of life because of conventional medicine, the number of babies who survive birth because of conventional medicine and the number of those who are suffering less and in less pain because of conventional medicine.

      And then give the same – properly verified – numbers for homeopathy.

  19. Lennox
    December 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    And by the way, Vioxx didn’t kill all these people because their treatment failed, it was death directly induced by the medication.

  20. Will
    December 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Lennox,

    You say “…I know no proof would ever convince you.” Wrong. Proof would convince me. You don’t understand proof and I haven’t seen any yet.

    Some more questions for you to think about (I know, I’m being optimistic, but you’ve stuck around longer than I expected):

    Q3) How many people would die each year without modern evidence-based medicine?

    Q4) What was the average life expectancy before modern medicine?

    Think about this also – Many of us skeptics know far more than you do about the dangers/failings of modern medicine. Many of us have devoted our careers to finding less harmful medicines or new treatments for diseases for which, at the moment, there are no evidence-based medicines. I could list far more tragedies/deaths that have arisen from modern medicine than you could. Trust me.

    Also, please think about this – Many people have died in air accidents, but that doesn’t make magic carpets real.

    We are not against homeopathy because we think modern medicine is perfect (or because we’re all corporate shills). We’re against it because it simply doesn’t work.

    You don’t have to e-mail scanned hospital documents. Just answer when they were diagnosed and who verified that they were cured. You see, it’s just that there is no cure for ALS, but some people survive for many years. This makes your statement “All the other ALS patients are DEAD!!!!” simply wrong. If a competent medical professional has verified that your family member has indeed been ‘cured’ of ALS (not just symptoms ameliorated) it would be a medical miracle, and I’m sure that they would be busy telling the world.

    However, the fact that ALS is incurable, sadly, makes desperate suffers and their family members prime targets for quacks and charlatans, who offer lots false hope where proper medicine can offer little real hope.

  21. Badly Shaved Monkey
    December 2, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Sadly it looks like Lennox is another tedious SCAM fan who can’t risk having his opinions examined closely.

    I’ve been playing with these muppets for nearly 10 years now and initially was surprised at how little they wanted to test the underpinnings of their slogans. Now I expect it. I think it is a reflection of the fragility of their belief.

  22. Lennox
    December 16, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Let me say ask: You or someone you know becomes ill with a disease that conventional medicine can’t treat. Someone will tell you there is a possibility homeopathy might cure this.
    You wouldn’t even give it a shot? Even if there was nothing else?
    I know your answer and find it very unreasonable. You’d rather die than try.
    Be my guest:)

    • Le Canard Noir
      December 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Lennox – this sort of argument is a quack’s form a Pascals Wager,

      that since the existence of God can not be proved (or disproved) through reason, but since in his view there was much to be gained from wagering that God exists (and little to be gained from wagering that God doesn’t exist), a rational person should simply wager that God exists (and live accordingly)

      The answer to your question is really the same as in which people have responded to Pascal:

      Since there are many claims to religious truth, how do you know which god or gods you should believe in? Since belief in Zeus is not compatible with your belief in the Abrahamic god, how do you decide? The answer is you cannot. All gods can neither be proved or disproved therefore all are equivalent from this wager’s perspective.

      The same goes for alternative medicine.

      Since, is I was dying, there would be hundreds of unevidenced claims as to how I should try to heal myself, how should I decide how to spend my limited time and money? Homeopathy, acupuncture, herbalism, miracle cures from the US, ozone therapy, a myriad of anti-cancer diets, B17, and on and on.

      Since my life is not the only factor in how I make decisions, I must take into account the effect on my family if I choose wrongly here and invest my savings in the wrong protocol.

      It is quite rational to decide that since there are no good reasons for any of these approaches – and all will deprive me of time and money, then I am better off concentrating on living my life to the full right now.

    • Will
      December 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      Lennox, it’s very rude and ignorant to ask more questions before answering those that have been asked of you.

      In answer to your question (although LCN has already made this point very well):

      I AM in a situation where a loved one has a disease that medicine can’t treat. People have recommended homeopathy amongst many other daft ideas; including prayer. They might have recommended throwing salt over my shoulder, standing on one leg, reading tea leaves, wearing my lucky pants, who knows what else. The point you are missing, is that there these things will not help. There is no “possibility homeopathy might cure this”. So where’s the benefit of trying it? Please tell me.

      You choose to believe in homeopathy. You can choose to believe anything you like (because if you believe one piece of irrational nonsense, in spite of overwhelming evidence, where do you draw the line? You must be a sucker for every scam going!). However, I understand that homeopathy doesn’t work. Given that I understand that like I understand that if I let go of a ball it will drop to the floor, why do you find my answer so unreasonable?

      As opposed to “You’d rather die than try”, you will find that, sadly, many people with incurable diseases “try” alternative medicine then “die” anyway. However, this is usually after months of being taken in by frauds, who have made a small fortune from the victim, fed them false hope, prolonged their suffering and heaped yet more despair on their families.

      Q1) When was your family member diagnosed with ALS?

      Q2) Who has verified that the condition is “cured”?

      Q3) How many people would die each year without modern evidence-based medicine?

      Q4) What was the average life expectancy before modern medicine?

      • Mojo
        December 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm

        There is no “possibility homeopathy might cure this”. So where’s the benefit of trying it?

        To the homoeopath.

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