Homeopathy students in Britain may receive bachelor-of-science degrees, but there’s precious little science in their curricula, according to two articles in tomorrow’s issue of Nature. In an essay, David Colquhoun, a pharmacist at University College London, questions the granting of B.Sc. degrees to students who focus on alternative medical practices, like homeopathy, that are not based on scientific evidence.
An accompanying news report notes that six British universities offer B.Sc. degrees in homeopathy, which relies on minute doses of poisons or toxins that supposedly rouse the body’s defenses and lead to better health. But medical researchers question homeopaths’ claims, which have not held up when subjected to clinical trials like those used to evaluate potential new drugs. Homeopathic medicines are so diluted that they are unlikely to contain even a molecule of the purported cure, the mainstream scientists say.
The danger, critics say, lies in the apparent legitimacy conferred on a homeopathic practitioner who holds a B.Sc., a stature that could lead unwary patients to ignore proven treatments.
Homeopathy and other complementary and alternative medical practices are taught in medical schools in France, Germany, and the United States, but only as an adjunct to a curriculum of evidence-based medicine. The situation in Britain is unlikely to change anytime soon, Nature reports, since neither universities nor higher-education organizations seem to regard it as a problem. —Susan Brown