French medical and drug experts say homeopathic medicines should no longer be paid for by the country’s health system because there is no evidence they work.
The conclusion in a joint report from the prestigious Academy of Medicine and the Academy of Pharmacy comes as the country’s centrist government considers halting the reimbursement of alternative health treatments.
The two academies also recommended stopping degrees in homeopathy from medical faculties.
In a joint statement, they declared “no homeopathic preparation should be reimbursed by Assurance Maladie [France’s health insurance] until the demonstration of sufficient medical benefit has been provided. No university degree in homeopathy should be issued by medical or pharmaceutical faculties.”
They said rigorous meta-analyses had not shown homeopathy’s effectiveness, but admitted it might have a placebo effect.
“The reimbursing of these products by the social security seems aberrant at a time when, for economic reasons, we are not reimbursing many classic medicines because they are more or less considered to not work well enough,” they wrote.
France’s social security, which is in the red, pays for just under €130m (£112m) worth of homeopathy every year – about 30% of the cost of each homeopathic treatment – out of a total of €19.9bn worth of medicines reimbursed.
A year ago the Collège National des Généralistes Engseignants, the national association for teaching doctors, said there was no way to justify the reimbursement of these treatments or the teaching of homeopathy in medical schools. “It is necessary to abandon these esoteric methods, which belong in the history books,” it wrote.
At the same time, 124 doctors signed an open letter attacking alternative medicine including homeopathy, which they said was “dangerous and fantasist … practiced by charlatans of all kinds”.
Afterwards, the homeopathic doctors’ union, Le Syndicat National des Médecins Homéopathe Français, lodged several official complaints disputing the claims.
Agnès Buzyn, the health minister, has asked France’s medical council, the Haute Autorité de Santé to evaluate the efficacy of homeopathy and the basis for it being reimbursed. The HAS is expected to publish its findings in June.
A survey by Odoxa in January showed 72% of French people believed homeopathy had benefits.
Gilles Bonnefond, president of one of the pharmacist unions, told RTL radio that stopping reimbursements would be a mistake. “Homeopathy is used by many French people,” he said. “When we’re dealing with patients, science isn’t the only rule.”