Last year I wrote about homeopathy, questioning whether valuable NHS resources should be spent on treatments that have no scientific basis and no proven efficacy.
Homeopathy is a system where a small amount of an active ingredient is diluted so many times that none of the original substance remains, but it is claimed that the water retains the memory of the active ingredient. This is then given to the patient to promote healing.
The Scottish NHS spends £1.5 million a year on homeopathic treatments. Yet it has now been deemed unethical to prescribe the same treatments for animals.
In December, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which governs the use of medicines in animals banned homeopathic treatments for animals because of the lack of any proof of their effectiveness.
The logic used by the VMD is simple. Vets have an ethical obligation to give the best treatment possible to sick animals. And that means providing only medicines that are proven to have value in treating illnesses. In fact, to do anything else could be classed as causing avoidable harm or even as animal cruelty.
That leaves us with a very obvious irony: homeopathic medicines cannot now be provided by veterinary professionals to animals, but can still be provided by healthcare professionals to humans – including those unable to make an informed choice, such as children and adults without the necessary mental capacity.
The NHS is facing funding cuts and one of the ways it is making savings is by ending the use of drugs that are deemed not to be cost-effective. There are drugs that do work, but are classed as too expensive.
So how can the NHS justify spending money on treatments that have no proven value at all – and are not even deemed to be useful in treating animals?
Answers on the back of a prescription form, please.