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Homeopathy: Group fights France’s no reimbursement rule

A homeopathy association is taking the country to court after France stopped reimbursing homeopathic medicine from January 1 this year

3 January 2021
A tube of homeopathy medicine. Homeopathy: Group fights France’s no reimbursement ruleAn association is taking the country to court after the government decided that it would no longer reimburse homeopathic medicines
By Hannah Thompson

A Lyon-based homeopathy advocate association is taking France to court to fight the country’s decision to stop reimbursing homeopathic medicines, a ruling that came into force on January 1, 2021.

More than a year ago, health authority la Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) - with then-Health Minister Agnès Buzyn - judged that homeopathic remedies were not sufficiently effective to be eligible for state medical reimbursement.

At the time, the HAS said that the medicines “provide insufficient medical service”, and a group of 124 doctors signed an open letter that called homeopaths “charlatans” and criticised the state’s continued reimbursement of the products.

As a result, it announced that from January 1 this year, the state would no longer reimburse homeopathy treatment.

The decision was controversial at the time, with French manufacturer Boiron saying that 1,000 jobs would be threatened. Boiron later called the government’s decision to stop reimbursement “incomprehensible and incoherent”.

In an interview in July 2019, Ms Buzyn said: “I understand the attachment that the French people have for this type of treatment. But [homeopathy] has not proven their benefit to public health nor to current pathologies. We should maybe focus more on the idea that it is not always necessary to take medicine.”

She added: “If homeopathy was useful, we would continue to reimburse it. We do it for new, innovative medicines, even though they are very expensive, but we do that because they are effective.”

Homeopathy reimbursement previously cost the state €126.8 million - of a total healthcare spend of €20 billion - per year.

But now, homeopathic association l’Association pour la Promotion de la Médecine Homéopathique (APMH), which is based in Lyon, has taken the state to court. It is awaiting its summons before the administrative court in Paris.

Isabelle Rossi, from the APMH said: “We will be summoned soon, and we will show up with all of our files. [We] will show that homeopathy has its place in the French healthcare system.”

The APMH says that it has collected many patient stories attesting to how much homeopathy has helped them.

It said: “Many mothers have told us that their lives changed the day that they were able to find a cure for angina or repeated ear infections.”

It said that its case also rests on “several legal texts that require the state to guarantee a freedom of choice of care for doctors and patients”.

Under the new rules from January 1, patients who wish to use homeopathic treatment must pay for it themselves - and prices are set to rise by 25%, as unreimbursed medicine incurs extra taxes and has no caps on cost.

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