PETER FROST sees red over Prince Charles’s attempt to help land the NHS with a close to £4 million-a-year bill for the universally discredited practice of homeopathy.
Earlier this month it was homeopathy awareness week and that provided another opportunity for Prince Charles to voice his opinion on this discredited pseudo medicine.
The heir to the throne has a lot of rather strange ideas. We know he talks to plants and trees on his Highgrove estate. I don’t have a problem with that but when he pressurises the government to get the NHS to waste over four million pounds a year on homeopathy I reckon he has gone too far.
The royal family has long been devoted to the practice — in fact, to this day the queen has a royal court homeopath. Her father, George VI, was a firm convert to it, as was his father, George V.
Today the queen uses homeopathic medicines herself and also for her corgis and horses.
But it is Charles who is homeopathy’s staunchest supporter among the royals — and indeed one of this branch of quack medicine’s most enthusiastic advocates in Britain.
In 1986, prompted by public pressure from him, the British Medical Association (BMA) set up an inquiry which found absolutely no scientific proof that any homeopathic treatments worked.
This opened up an ideological rift between Charles and much of the medical profession that endures to this day.
He continues to promote his views and despite normal conventions to keep the royals out of politics he has lobbied prime ministers, health ministers and other members of government on his strange unscientific views. Most recently he has certainly discussed the issue with Jeremy Hunt.
His campaigns and lobbying have had some serious setbacks, however. In 1993, Charles set up the Foundation for Integrated Health — a charity that lobbied for homeopathy to be considered alongside mainstream medicine in hospitals.
The Prince’s foundation argued that embracing such treatments would benefit patients and save money.
In 2010, his charity closed amid a flurry of allegations of fraud and the arrest of a former senior official.
The group soon reopened under the banner of the College of Medicine with Charles no longer overtly involved but still believed to support and even finance the new lobby group.
As always when Charles is involved, he didn’t miss the chance to make a few bob out of his activities. He launched a range of herbal tinctures sold under his own Duchy Originals brand.
These were withdrawn from sale after claims about the products were labelled misleading by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Sceptical homeopathy expert Professor Edzard Ernst dismissed one of the remedies — the detox artichoke and dandelion tincture — as quackery and dubbed the brand “dodgy originals.”
The BMA has described homeopathy as witchcraft. In 2010, the government Science and Technology Committee analysed the research into homeopathy and concluded that “homeopathic products perform no better than placebos.”
This conclusion was confirmed in 2015 in a review by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
Over two centuries ago the first homeopaths perversely decided that diluting an active medicinal ingredient makes it more potent but the vast majority of these “remedies” contain nothing at all. Modern homeopathic cures are pure distilled water with no active ingredient dripped on to a sugar pill.
Homeopathy however is big business. The homeopathic industry is highly profitable for companies like Boiron, Weleda and Nelson’s. Britain’s homeopathic market is estimated at £213 million per year. That is a huge amount of cash for treatments which, despite hundreds of tests, have failed to show themselves to be any better than a placebo.
In 2010, the NHS spent around £4m on homeopathy, money that could instead be better spent providing effective treatments, vital surgery and additional nursing staff.
With NHS budgets under increasing pressure, wasting money by giving sugar pills to the sick is unjustifiable. In 2010 the government Science and Technology Committee declared: “The government should stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS.”
Even worse, some extreme homeopath organisations are claiming their sugar pills can cure cancer, Aids, ebola and malaria. They can’t of course.
In 2011, 1,700 people in 30 countries around the world took part in an international protest, each taking an overdose of dozens of homeopathic pills to demonstrate that these worthless pills have no effect and should not be sold as medicine.
The Advertising Standards Authority has received over 150 complaints of false advertising and misleading claims made by homeopaths.
Official homeopathic bodies seem unwilling or unable to stop their members making exaggerated and totally unsubstantiated claims.
Many homeopaths regularly discourage conventional vaccination, instead promoting nosodes — so called natural homeopathic vaccinations. These totally ineffective vaccines leave children at risk of diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.
Lined up against Charles and his homeopathic allies are a powerful body of scientific experts including the House of Commons, the British Medical Association, the NHS and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.
Mark Walport, chief scientific adviser to the government, has stated that: “homeopathic treatments were nonsense with absolutely no medical benefit” — echoing the sentiments of Britain’s chief medical officer.
It is clear that all leading medical experts agree: homeopathy simply does not work and should not be used. It has no place being funded by the NHS or being promoted by the man who thinks he may be the next king.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 29 April 2016.