Homeopathy on prescription could be banned amid NHS cash concerns
The NHS could ban homeopathy on prescription, ministers have announced.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said cash should only be spent on the most effective medicines.
Homeopathy is based on the idea that the body can heal itself through highly diluted substances. It is controversial because experts say there is no evidence that it works.
A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said the remedies performed no better than dummy pills, adding that it was underpinned by principles which are "scientifically implausible".
This is also the view of England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.
Mr Freeman said: "With rising health demands, we have a duty to make sure we spend NHS funds on the most effective treatments.
"We are currently considering whether or not homeopathic products should continue to be available through NHS prescriptions. We expect to consult on proposals in due course."
There are several NHS homeopathic hospitals and some GP practices also offer homeopathic treatment.
A consultation on whether it should continue to be prescribed is expected to take place next year. About £4 million in total is thought to be spent on NHS homeopathy.
According to NHS Choices, the NHS website for patients, there has been extensive investigation of its effectiveness
It says: "There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition."
A central principle of the "treatment" is that "like cures like".
Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.
Simon Singh, a journalist who wrote a book dismissing homeopathy, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When you look at all the data, when you talk to the editors of the best medical journals, when you talk to the Chief Medical Officer, if you looked at the report from the Commons Select Committee, homeopathy does not work, I'm afraid.
"You will never find a homeopathic drug doping scandal in athletics because all the athletes will get is a sugar rush.
"Because the NHS funds it, it gives it undue credibility. These pills typically have nothing in them whatsoever but you will find charities who will send homeopaths to west Africa to treat Ebola, to south Africa to treat malaria."
Dr Peter Fisher, director of research at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, denied homeopathic medicine only had a placebo effect.
"There have been a number of studies - what they call comparative effectiveness studies, in other words you compare GPs who integrate homeopathy in their practice with GPs who do not ... and they are unanimous. All of them show you get better outcomes with homeopathy."
He added: "The evidence does not support that it is a placebo."