London, June 17: It has been practiced for decades, but now homeopathy has been accused of putting lives at risk through unfounded claims that convince people they do not need to see a doctor.
According to Edzard Ernst, the world's only professor of complementary medicine, homoeopathic treatments are a "public health problem" which must be more tightly regulated. Ernst's comments came after a British Government report on June 16 called for "urgent" controls on herbalists, acupuncturists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, amid fears over patient safety. The report's recommendations, to be considered by ministers, include a proposal that new practitioners would have to study for a degree in their field before they could practice. A 40 million pounds industry in the UK, homoeopathic remedies claim to be able to prevent yellow fever, typhoid, polio and even leukaemia, as well as cure symptoms ranging from toothache to hearing loss.
But there are growing concerns over whether the homoeopathic remedies have any effect. Homoeopathists differ from herbalists, who use a variety of plants to combat diseases, because their treatments are heavily diluted. Prof Ernst, from the University of Exeter, announced a 10,000 pounds prize for any proof of a successful homoeopathic treatment. "Homoeopathic claims are not benign, they are dangerous. [Homoeopaths] have to demonstrate with scientific rigour that their claims work or they have to shut up," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying. The British Homeopathic Association denied that the treatments were dangerous.