MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

No, this post is not about the human cost of homeopathy. I have written about this subject already rather a lot, I think. This post is about the money we dish out for homeopathy. This should be a very straight forward issue – but unfortunately it isn’t, and I find it rather intriguing that there can be so much uncertainty about such simple questions.

Homeopathy is cheap, people say. Mr Smallwood even claimed that we can all save millions, if we only used more of it. I am not sure that this is true.

The typical homeopathic remedy is not very expensive – and it shouldn’t be, after all, there is nothing in it! Paradoxically, the less likely you are to have even a remote chance of finding a single ‘active’ molecule in a homeopathic remedy, the more you might have to pay for it. The reason is simple: the homeopathic dilution process can be time-consuming, and time is of course money. Thus high potencies would normally be quite expensive.

So how much do we spend on homeopathic remedies? As a society or nation, we seem to be spending quite a lot. In Britain, the NHS apparently pays around £ 5 million per year for homeopathic remedies. Consumers in the US are said to spend about $ 3 billion each year. The Germans are known to be keener than most on homeopathy, and they spend around 500 million Euros per year.

But are these the real costs of homeopathy? Certainly not!

The real costs should include the time for the clinicians. As homeopathic consultations can be longer than one hour, this might amount to a tidy sum. Yet realistic figures are difficult to find.

To these costs we should add the costs for educating and training the homeopaths, the costs for the support staff, the costs for the premises where homeopathy is practised, and many other costs that I don’t even know about.

There is little doubt therefore that homeopathy is expensive. I would love to know the exact figures per year by different countries. Unfortunately I cannot even begin to estimate them. Let’s hope that my readers know more and are able to enlighten us.

9 Responses to The cost of homeopathy

  • I share Prof. Ernst’s concerns, but at least if the NHS stopped spending money on homeopathically prepared (HP) remedies, a start could be made on assessing the economic impact. Unless and until NICE reports on the cost-benefit and value for money of these remedies, they should not be purchased within the NHS (BMA policy). What private patients spend their money on is up to them.

    Smallwood did indeed suggest use of ‘homeopathy’ might benefit the public health, but he conflated the benefit of spending (a lot of) time with an empathic practitioner (which may well offer solace and consolation to some patients) and provision of the HP remedies themselves (which as far as anyone can establish, have no effect on any specific disease – as they are placebos).

    The costs of HP remedies plus counselling could be established by asking each Clinical Commissioning Groups what their budget is for ‘HC + HP’. And then asking their service providers (if any) to state what the HP costs are. It is staggering that the DoH and Mr Hunt have made no attempt to find out, and yet they promulgate the concepts of evidence based healthcare.

    Sigh.

  • There is also the cost of repairing the damage that homeopaths cause. One example is their predilection for lying about the effectiveness off vaccines. Several were hospitalised during the recent measles outbreak and while it is difficult if not impossible to allocate a cost to those homeopaths who convinced parents to not vaccinate, they do have a responsibility to take the blame for some of it.

  • This is poor research Edzard. You clearly state that the cost of homeopathic remedies alone to the NHS is £5 million and that clinicians time is extra. You only had to ask Alan Henness for the facts here! He has posted on his Zeno blog 14th Oct 2014 plus on his Nightingale Collaboration website that in 2013 there were 13,001 homeopathic prescription items at a total cost of £137,298. Few would doubt these figures and i really don’t think that the figure is now £5 million. I find it amusing that you can make such a basic error. I advise a tutorial with Alan asap.

  • And you haven’t even started on the increased cost associated with the extra load placed on real medicine when treating serious illness because a patient used homeopathy instead of consulting a doctor. Sometimes this has meant the difference between life and death. How can you evaluate the price of needless suffering?

  • AND THE COST OF PAROXETINE AND SSRI’S IN CHILDREN?

  • Don’t forget to add the societal cost of giving pseudoscience an air of legitimacy.

  • I found this statement on the website of the FACULTY OF HOMEOPATHY [http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/media/facts-about-homeopathy/the-growing-demand-for-homeopathy/]: The over-the-counter market in homeopathy currently stands at around £40million in the UK, based on the last market figures published by Mintel, which estimated in 2007 it was worth £38million but projected to reach £46million in 2012.

  • it isn’t clear to me whether the figures for NHS spending on homeopathy include the basic costs of running the totally unnecessary homeopathic hospitals. How these have survived so long in a strapped for cash system is almost beyond belief. It couldn’t be anything to do with the influence of HRH the Prince of Wales, could it?

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