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Homeopathic 'vaccinations' could leave patients vulnerable


Homeopaths in Scotland are offering alternatives to vaccinations that doctors say could leave patients vulnerable to potentially fatal diseases, according to a BBC investigation.

Three alternative practitioners told a BBC investigation they gave patients a homeopathic medicine designed to replace the MMR vaccine.

The documentary also discovered the Scottish NHS is spending more money per person on homeopathy than in England.

The investigation examined claims that members of the Homeopathic Medical Association, which has around 300 members across the UK, were offering replacement vaccines. It approached the association’s six members in Scotland.

Doctors said the replacement of vaccines such as MMR with homeopathic alternatives and remedies was “extremely worrying”.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association’s director of science and ethics, told the programme: “Replacing proven vaccines, tested vaccines, vaccines that are used globally and we know are effective with homeopathic alternatives where there is no evidence of efficacy, no evidence of effectiveness, is extremely worrying because it could persuade families that their children are safe and protected when they’re not.

“And some of those children will go on to get the illness.”

She said some children may go on “even to die” which would be a tragedy when a family thinks it has protected its children.

Dr Nathanson also said funding for Glasgow’s Homeopathic Hospital should stop until an “evidence base” on which patients they can help was created.

The programme found that GPs in Scotland are prescribing at least 10 times as many homeopathic medicines per person as their colleagues in England.

Freedom of Information requests for the programme revealed that the Scottish NHS is spending around £1.5m on homeopathy - almost a third of the estimated UK spend of £4m.

Freedom of Information requests for the programme also found that around half of Scotland’s Health Boards provided some funding for the discipline.

The programme, called Magic or Medicine - Homeopathy and the NHS, is broadcast on Monday (13 September) at 7.30pm on BBC One Scotland.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Ridiculous and very misleading. All vaccinations carry health risks, are not infallible, are not guaranteed effective and some people die as a result. Fails to discuss so much and yet peddle so much 'extreme worry'. The Scottish GP's could maybe be asked to produce some of their findings to look at seeing as they're using it more than most others? That would be interesting.

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  • Grotesque.

    I am not against homeopathy, and do not mind it if adults choose this treatment for themselves. But IF practicing homeopaths do indeed offer "vaccination" for children and can not back up the protective-effect claim with good clinical investigations, are there any vaccinating homeopaths that would care to defend this alleged practice? If I have misunderstood this I apologise, but, really, can you defend telling parents that "vaccination" with an agent not supported by good clinical investigations defend a child against disease?



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  • Homeopathy has been in the press a great deal as much of what is practised has not stood up to clinical trials. Yes, not all vaccinations are infallible but that is why provisos are explained to patients. I have just had five vaccinations from my GP in order to travel to Africa. I had very clear instructions and an information sheet about all that I could have. I had looked into what I needed myself and in particular about malaria which can kill people or leave people with life long medical issues. Quack remedies are bandied about on the internet, (garlic for instance offerring protection against mosquito bites) but Iwould always go for clinically tested and reviewed vaccinations on the NHS over anything 'hearsay' as even private clinics may make you pay for unecessary vaccinations. They may not be infallible but at least you have an informed choice and get reliable information. Homoepaths should only give out tried and tested medicines.

    I unfortunately, (because of my fault), cannot have rabies vacc as I will not be able to complete the course before I go. I was given clear advice on how to avoid getting bitten by wild/ domestic animals and I will need to take the risk myself.

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  • Morten Harboe Jr:
    'I am not against homeopathy' - Great! very open minded
    'and do not mind it if adults choose this treatment for themselve' - very noble and generous

    'But IF practicing homeopaths do indeed offer "vaccination" for children' - not true, they might offer remedies or suggest other/additional options. Homeopaths are trained to know they are not medically qualified if they have not done a medical degree, and to consult a medical practitioner as part of the process.

    'and can not back up the protective-effect claim with good clinical investigations' - I presume you are referring to RCT's? If you had researched your subject better you would be aware that homeopathy works very differently to medical theories and research is mixed. There are research trials that have shown very interesting results - look more deeply instead of trotting out the same old rubbish from people like Edzard Ernst.

    'are there any vaccinating homeopaths' - ridiculous question summarily ignored.

    'If I have misunderstood this I apologise' - evidently you have and you are forgiven. Try and not do it again.

    'defend a child against disease?' - in the name of war presumably? Again you haven't researched your subject well enough. Try again

    'Anonymous | 13-Sep-2010 12:44 pm':
    You sound very satisfied with yourself but very uninformed. Disappointing.

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  • Thank you very much, • Anonymous | 17-Sep-2010 6:39 pm!

    I am glad if homeopaths are not offering “vaccination” for children.

    A good clinical investigation is not necessarily an RCT. In a lot of valuable clinical practice, a randomised clinical trial is not always the best approach. Insisting on RCTs only would thus exclude valuable information learned in clinical practice.

    Like most, I could probably now and then be more humble and less satisfied with myself, and I do apologise if I have been nauseating. I do hope it is understandable, however, that I react when I read “claims that members of the Homeopathic Medical Association, which has around 300 members across the UK, were offering replacement vaccines”.



    PS I do try to avoid using military metaphors about disease, inspired by Susan Sontag, the “defend” got past me, though.

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