GPs say no to homeopathy

Homeopathy has “fallen out of favour” among GPs over the past decade, a survey finds.

The UK study shows homeopathy is no longer GPs’ most commonly used complementary and alternative medicine, having been overtaken by acupuncture as the alternative of choice.

In 1999, 18% of GPs reported regularly using a CAM to treat patients, the majority of whom used homeopathy.

But by 2010, 14% of GPs used acupuncture to treat patients, ahead of homeopathy, which had fallen to just 4% — on a par with hypnotherapy.

 

This was despite overall CAM usage among GPs remaining stable, at 19%.

Reflexology and medical herbalism were the two least popular therapies, both in 1999 and 2010.

Further comparison of the data revealed a drop in the number of CAM referrals and endorsements made by GPs: only 17% had referred for a CAM in the previous week when surveyed in 2010, compared with 31% in 1999.

The proportion of GPs who endorsed complementary and alternative medicines during consults also dropped, from 38% in 1999 to 19% in 2010 — a result the study’s authors described as “striking”.

“This may be because of an increased scepticism towards CAM by the medical profession or to a greater preoccupation by GPs with conventional medicine as a result of financial pressure,” they wrote. “Homeopathy, in particular, seems to have fallen out of favour.”

The follow-up surveys were completed by 78 GPs in Liverpool, UK. The original survey was completed by 131.

Acupuncture was considered the most effective therapy, the study found, with two-thirds of GPs supporting a move to make it available on the National Health Service.

“Despite little clinical evidence to support its effectiveness in conditions other than pain or nausea, GPs have seemingly incorporated this therapy into normal practice,” they said.

Primary Health Care Research and Development 2013; online.