Homeopathy

Quick reference guide

Key Points

  • The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment because there is no scientific basis for homeopathy nor any evidence to support the clinical efficacy of homeopathic products beyond a placebo effect.
  • The RPS does not support the prescribing of homeopathic products on the NHS.
  • Pharmacists should ensure, wherever possible, that patients do not stop taking their prescribed conventional medication, if they are taking or are considering taking a homeopathic product.
  • Pharmacists must be aware that patients requesting homeopathic products may have serious underlying undiagnosed medical conditions which may require referral to another healthcare professional.
  • Pharmacists must advise patients considering a homeopathic product about their lack of efficacy beyond that of a placebo.

What is the aim of this quick reference guide?

The guide aims to outline the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's (RPS) current position with respect to homeopathy, and to advise pharmacists on how to deal with patient requests for homeopathic products.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy has been defined as a holistic complementary and alternative therapy based on the concept of “like to treat like” and involves the administration of dilute and ultra-dilute products prepared according to methods given in homeopathic pharmacopoeias.

What is the evidence for homeopathy?

There is no scientific or clinical evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathic products beyond that of a placebo. Although anecdotal reports of the effectiveness of homeopathic products have been published, particularly when used as part of individualised homeopathic treatment by a homeopathic practitioner, such reports do not stand up to scrutiny by meta-analysis.

What advice should pharmacists give patients?

If a patient requests advice on homeopathy, the pharmacist should advise on the lack of evidence on the efficacy of homeopathic products, and provide advice relevant to the patient’s condition. Pharmacists should also ensure that patients do not stop taking their prescribed medication if they take a homeopathic product.

When should I refer a patient?

Pharmacists will be in a position to identify serious, underlying undiagnosed medical conditions requiring the patients to be referred to another healthcare professional.

How are homeopathic products licensed?

For the purpose of licensing, the MHRA does not currently require homeopathic products to demonstrate efficacy, only quality and safety.

Are all homeopathic products ultradilute?

Although most homeopathic products are ultra-dilute and the starting material will have been diluted to below Avogadro’s number, it is possible for some homeopathic products to contain significant (measureable) quantities of the starting material. However, in MHRA licensed products available from community pharmacies, the starting material will have been considerably diluted.

What are the differences between homeopathic and herbal products?

The public frequently confuse homeopathic with herbal products. Pharmacists can help the public understand the difference between homeopathic products and herbal products. You can see a summary of these differences on our homeopathic and herbal products comparison table page.

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