Jeremy Hunt asked the Chief Medical Officer to review pro-homeopathy studies funded by the world’s biggest producer of homeopathic products, BuzzFeed has learnt.
Emails obtained by BuzzFeed show that in December 2013 the health secretary asked Professor Dame Sally Davies to review three studies on the medical benefits of homeopathy, a controversial form of treatment which has been repeatedly found to be no more effective than a placebo.
In an email to a third party, Hunt’s office argued it was “important we do not discount different methods of treatment if they prove to be effective” and said it would continue to pass on other studies regarding the medical benefits of homeopathy to the chief medical officer.
Hunt, who is responsible for the NHS, has previously come under fire for supporting homeopathy, which involves giving patients doses of highly diluted substances in the belief that it will spur the body’s natural healing system into action.
In a 2007 letter to a constituent he said “homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people” and should continue to be available on England’s health service.
The Chief Medical Officer reviewed the three studies forwarded by Hunt and concluded there were fundamental problems with their scientific method.
According to emails, the chief medical officer found that it was “difficult to draw useful conclusions” from two of the trials, though Hunt’s office noted that the analysis had found they were “well-designed, with robust results”.
The chief medical officer also said the third trial, into the homeopathic treatment of patients with musculoskeletal disorders, had problems because it was not scientifically randomised and had a “relatively low response rate”.
A Department of Health spokesperson told BuzzFeed the department does not maintain an official position on homeopathy, and that decisions about use of alternative treatments should be made at a local level. They said any such decision should take into account the safety, clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness and the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners.
“It is the responsibility of local NHS organisations to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of any healthcare treatments for NHS patients, such as homeopathy,” the department added.