MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The NHS England has stopped paying for homeopathy in 2017. France has just announced to do likewise. What about Germany, the homeland of homeopathy?  

In Germany there are about 150,000 doctors, and around 7,000 specialize in homeopathy. Multiple surveys confirm that Germans do like their SCAMs, particularly homeopathy. Two examples:

  • A 2016 cross-sectional analysis conducted among all patients being referred to the Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine at Essen, Germany, over a 3-year period showed that 35% of the 2,045 respondents reported having used homeopathy for their primary medical complaint.  359 (50.2%) patients reported benefits and 15 (2.1%) reported harm.
  • More recently, a questionnaire survey concerning current and lifetime use of SCAM was distributed to German adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The results suggested that 45% of the respondents were currently using or had used at least one SCAM modality in their life. Homeopathy and acupuncture were most frequently used SCAMs, followed by mind-body interventions.

But since a few years, the German opposition to homeopathy has become much more active. In particular the INH, the GWUP, and the Muensteraner Kreis have been instrumental in informing the public about the uselessness and dangers of homeopathy. The press has now taken up this message and, as this article explains, now the debate about homeopathy has finally reached the political level.

The head of the main doctors’ association and the SPD’s health specialist have called for an end to refunds for homeopathy treatments in Germany. The head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), which represents 150,000 doctors and psychotherapists in Germany, recently urged health insurance companies to stop funding homeopathic services. “There is insufficient scientific evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic procedures,” Andreas Gassen told the Rheinische Post. “If people want homeopathic remedies, they should have them — but not at the expense of the community.

Gassen’s comments follow those of the Social Democrat (SPD) health issues specialist and lawmaker Karl Lauterbach who has pressed for a law banning refunds for homeopathy. “We have to talk about it in GroKo,” Lauterbach said earlier this month, suggesting a discussion in the government grand coalition. He said the benefits paid for by insurers should be medically and economically sensible. He has the support of the Federal Joint Committee which decides on what is covered by payments from the statutory health funds.

So, what is going to happen?

As I have written previously, one can only be sure of this:

  • The German homeopathy lobby will not easily give up; after all, they have half a billion Euros per year to lose.
  • They will not argue on the basis of science or evidence, because they know that neither are in their favour.
  • They will fight dirty and try to defame everyone who stands in their way.
  • They will use their political influence and their considerable financial power.

AND YET THEY WILL LOSE!

Not because we are so well organised or have great resources – in fact, as far as I can see, we have none – but because, in medicine, the evidence is invincible and will eventually prevail. Progress might be delayed, but it cannot be halted by those who cling to an obsolete dogma.

 

 

5 Responses to German health insurers urged to end homeopathy refunds

  • This is good news. Things do seem to have shifted a little for the better over the last decade or so.

    Following Jan Böhmermann’s comedic intervention on public TV the other week, another critique was posted (in German) on a popular You Tube channel, and already has more than a quarter of a million views.

    Again, the host does a spectacular job:
    * Hevert, the company that sued a German doctor for saying homeopathy has no effects also markets in the US where it is required by law to state exactly this on their packaging — then sue someone for saying exactly the same thing!
    * notes the two standard responses to criticism — 1. it’s “too individual to test”, which the host demolishes by pointing out how formulaic (and absurd) this is, and is no hindrance to testing at all; and “freedom to choose” — which is no defense at all
    * details the way homeopaths have evaded laws governing scientific standards for testing, via a “points system” by which via ‘provings’ they can gather points. (I find skeptics often fail to point out just how utterly ridiculous this whole ‘provings’ thing is.)

    This and Böhmermann’s take down are two of the best demolitions of homeopathy I’ve seen.

    • “I find skeptics often fail to point out just how utterly ridiculous this whole ‘provings’ thing is”

      Yes indeed, you are right. In fact, I guess, nobody amongst us skeptics was really aware of all the nooks and crannies of our local laws about registration (“Registrierung” in German) and admittance (“Zulassung”) of homeopathic remedies and what the often cited internal consensus (“Binnenconsens”) was about. We could not be more thankful to Hevert for his initiative to have this cleared and brought to public attention. His desist letters to Prof. Glaeske and Natalie Grams triggered us to have a closer look into these legal matters. Of course these hardly were his intentions. We call it the Hevert-backfire-effect today, an even more complete failure to suppress things than the notorious Streisand-effect.

      And of course we will enlarge on this issue in the future.

  • At least some fruits are coming off the tree. Also in Belgium, where the health insurance is strongly politicized, christian muuality has ceased the reimbursement of homeopathics. Other main insurances do stilll refund partially, for commercial reasons, they said to me openly when I complained about is.

    A curouius phenomenon that appears now id pseudo-homeopathy, say SCAML to the square: D2 and D3 dilutions. I saw recently a one year baby having received such a remedy for azching gums. The producer is called Heel: it can be found on the website of the CBIP (www.cbip.be, in French and Flemish). The parents were astonished that it didn’t work. And they tought it was homeopathic: double deception!

    Do not hesitate to edit my poor English! Congratulations.

    • A post on this blog from 2014 described how Heel was pulling out of the North American market. The >300 comments include several from very angry customers who bought a Heel product called Traumeel which they insisted provided them (and their animals) with instant pain relief. The components of Traumeel include some at low dilutions, therefore ‘low potency’ in homeopathic terms. But the product is still classed as homeopathic.

  • It will probably be for the best if alternative medicine leaves the private and govt insurance orbit. At least in the USA insurance has ruined what was good in allopathic healthcare.

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