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

I have repeatedly reported about what has been happening with homeopathy in France. For many decades, it had a free ride. Things began to change some 10 years ago.

  • In 2014, our book was published in French. I might be fooling myself, but I do hope that it helped to start a ball rolling.
  • Subsequently, French skeptics began raising their voices against quackery in general and homeopathy in particular.
  • In 2015, Christian Boiron, boss of Boiron, stated about people opposing homeopathy that “Il y a un Ku Klux Klan contre l’homéopathie” THERE IS A KU KLUX KLAN AGAINST HOMEOPATHY”.
  • In 2018, 124 doctors published an open letter criticizing the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
  • In the same year, the Collège National des Généralistes Engseignants, the national association for teaching doctors, pointed out that there was no rational justification for the reimbursement of homeopathics nor for the teaching of homeopathy in medical schools, and they stated bluntly that it is necessary to abandon these esoteric methods, which belong in the history books.
  • Also in 2018, the University of Lille announced its decision to stop its course on homeopathy. The faculty of medicine’s dean, Didier Gosset, said: It has to be said that we teach medicine based on proof – we insist on absolute scientific rigor – and it has to be said that homeopathy has not evolved in the same direction, that it is a doctrine that has remained on the margins of the scientific movement, that studies on homeopathy are rare, that they are not very substantial. Continuing to teach it would be to endorse it.
  • In 2019, the French Academies of Medicine and Pharmacy published a document entitled ‘L’homéopathie en France : position de l’Académie nationale de médecine et de l’Académie nationale de pharmacie’. It stated that L’homéopathie a été introduite à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, par Samuel Hahnemann, postulant deux hypothèses : celle des similitudes (soigner le mal par le mal) et celle des hautes dilutions. L’état des données scientifiques ne permet de vérifier à ce jour aucune de ces hypothèses. Les méta-analyses rigoureuses n’ont pas permis de démontrer une efficacité des préparations homéopathiques. The academies concluded that no French university should offer degrees in homeopathy, and that homeopathy should no longer be funded by the public purse: “no homeopathic preparation should be reimbursed by Assurance Maladie [France’s health insurance] until the demonstration of sufficient medical benefit has been provided. No university degree in homeopathy should be issued by medical or pharmaceutical faculties … The reimbursing of these products by the social security seems aberrant at a time when, for economic reasons, we are not reimbursing many classic medicines because they are more or less considered to not work well enough …”
  • Only weeks later, the French health regulator (HAS) recommended with a large majority the discontinuation of the reimbursement of homeopathic products.
  • The health minister, Agnès Buzyn, announced “Je me tiendrai à l’avis de la Haute Autorité de santé”.
  • Consequently, the powerful French homeopathy lobby mounted political pressure, including a petition with over 1000000 signatures.
  • President Macron allegedly was hesitant and considered a range of options, including a reduction of the percentage of reimbursement.
  • Apparently, the minister stood up for science and, as rumored, even put her job on the line.
  • In July 2019, she announced the end of reimbursement and was quoted saying J’ai toujours dit que je suivrais l’avis de la Haute Autorité de santé (HAS), j’ai donc décidé d’engager la procédure de déremboursement total

Since then, homeopathy has indeed been banned from reimbursement. Here is a short update on the current situation:

After the disengagement of the French Social Security system, the world leader in homeopathy has been trying to convince complementary health insurance companies to take up the torch of large-scale reimbursement. Its seduction operation includes a third-party payment solution to boost sales.

From 1 January 2021, homeopathy is no longer reimbursed by Social Security. In March 2020, Boiron, the largest producer of homeopathics, began a restructuring that led to the loss of 560 jobs in France and the closure of one-third of its 31 production and distribution sites. On Thursday, the site of Chauray (Deux-Sèvres) closed after 33 years of activity.

… The CEO of Boiron, Valérie Lorentz-Poinsot, does not have words strong enough to describe the decision of the former Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn, to delist homeopathy. Since the view issued in June 2019 by the French Health Authority (HAS) noting the ineffectiveness of 1,100 of these products previously reimbursed by the French health service, the reimbursement of homeopathics was reduced from 30% to 15% in 2020, then to 0% on 1 January 2021.

PS

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: the stocks in Boiron roughly halved during the last 3 years

 

3 Responses to The situation of homeopathy in France: an update

  • I feel no regret that Boiron is making less profit on pseudo-medicine. I do hope that the dismissed employees have found a new job, possibly in the “real” pharmaceutical industry.

  • It’s surely revealing, that instead of knuckling down and doing studies to prove homeopathic efficacy better than placebo in treating any condition, this wealthy company bleats about a ku klux klan against homeopathy.

    One suspects they realise that no matter how much they might spend on RCTs, the results will never be better than placebo.

    • It is indeed, erm, ‘interesting’ how homeopaths and companies such as Boiron vehemently keep insisting that Homeopathy Works, yet so far failed miserably to produce even the tiniest bit of consistent, repeatable evidence(*) to support this claim.
      Rather telling in this respect is also Boiron’s expenditure on research – according to their 2020 financial information, they spend a mere 0.6% of their annual turnover on ‘research’ – which is absolutely laughable compared to the 20% or more that makers of real medicines spend on R&D. What this means is that Boiron is either continuing the time-honoured homeopathic practice of peddling products as medicine without actually testing any therapeutic effects (cf. ‘proving’), and/or, more cynically, knows that homeopathy doesn’t work at all, and hope that they can keep getting away with fooling their customer base by suggesting otherwise and of course protesting any measures that harm their sales.

      *: By which I primarily mean evidence supporting the existence or plausibility of the following:
      – the similia principle
      – the law of infinitesimals
      – the viability of proving
      Even after 220 years(!), none of these core principles of homeopathy have ever been independently verified to exist – quite the opposite, in fact, as everyday observations in real chemistry show us.

      But even if we look at individual homeopathic ‘remedies’, not a single one of those has been shown to have any effect on any condition whatsoever when researched in a proper scientific manner. All we have is claims from homeopaths that they ‘see it work with their own eyes’. And they claim this for even the most ludicrous ‘remedies’ that homeopathy has come up with – which in itself is in fact evidence enough to dismiss their claims as mass delusion.

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