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Homeopathy take-up from GPs "lower"

The number of prescriptions for homeopathic remedies has fallen by almost 50% over the last two years, according to recent figures.

A report by the Prescription Pricing Authority showed GPs wrote 49,300 prescriptions for homeopathy in 2007, down from 83,000 in 2005.

This is despite an overall increase in the number of prescriptions written in primary care, from 720 million in 2005 to 796.3 million in 2007.

The spend on homeopathy also fell 46% to £321,000 in 2007 - 0.006% of the total prescribing budget - compared with £593,000 in 2005.

Homeopathy experts have said there is no evidence GPs are shunning homeopathy or that patients were turning their backs on it.

The figures on prescribing were obtained by Pulse newspaper, whose investigation in January showed that only 37% of 132 primary care trusts still had contracts for homeopathic services.

More than a quarter of trusts had stopped or reduced funding between 2005 and 2007 for the therapies, it said.

Homeopathy is based on diluting substances - that might otherwise be poisonous - in water or alcohol. The solutions are made from many different things including plants, minerals and animal products.

Some scientists argue homeopathic solutions are diluted so many times that they are unlikely to contain any active ingredients at all.

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"The answer is simple. In response to a vociferous campaign by a minority of sceptics, PCTs have decided to stop funding homeopathy. GPs can't therefore offer it to patients - therefore the number of prescriptions have declined. The sad thing is patients want it and homeopathy covers a number of effectiveness gaps where conventional medicine performs poorly. So much for the government's patient choice agenda" - Stephen Gordon, Norfolk