Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

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Friday, 8 April 2016

Homeopathy clinging to NHS by its fingertips, not far to fall

Every year the UK Government's Department of Health publishes (through the Health and Social Care Information Centre, HSCIC) the latest figures for money spent on prescriptions in the NHS in England. This is known as prescription cost analysis data and this year it was published on 7 April.

The data include the number of prescription items and the cost of those items. In many cases, and partiularly in the case of long term conditions like diabetes, numbers of prescription items tend to increase each year.

But not for homeopathy prescription items (which, anachronistically, are still permitted on the NHS where doctors (presumably?) want to give patients 'a pill' without actually giving them a pill)...

The graphs below (prepared by the Nightingale Collaboration) show the number of homeopathy items prescribed and the overall costs associated with prescribing them. As you can see homeopathy is plummeting on the NHS and has been for some time. That's quite a ski slope there.

The peak number of prescribed items was in 1996 at about 170,000 items. By 2005 this had roughly halved to about 80,000 and, rather dramatically, had halved again two years later in 2007. In 2015 the number dips below 10,000 items, to 8,894.

Graphs made by and stolen from Nightingale Collaboration, click to enlarge
With fewer items being prescribed overall costs are dropping too though the relative cost per item has doubled in 20 years (the cost per item was £4.97 in 1995 and in 2015 was £10.60, thus allowing me to make the joke that homeopathy is most certainly not cost-effective* on the NHS).

You can find a summary of the original data on page 381 of this 711 page PDF ;)

Click to enlarge image.

It's World Homeopathy Awareness week from 10 to 16 April 2016 but it looks like the UK at least is wise to the nonsense of homeopathy. If you plan to share one homeopathy-related article during the week please make it the Nightingale Collaboration's careful analysis of homeopathy's plummetous drop on the NHS which you can find and enjoy here - Homeopathy on the NHS: at death's door

*technically cost-effectiveness-ness for drugs would weigh the effectiveness of the medication (for homeopathy that's zero) against the cost (anything other than free is a waste of money) but here I am mean-spiritedly demonstrating that even compared against itself it's useless. Ha!

Version for homeopaths
Well done homeopaths! You started the year with zero prescribed homeopathic items and ended it with nearly 9,000 - a massive increase, great work everyone :) 

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).