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Lille stops homeopathy course amid French health row

The Lille Faculty of Medicine is suspending its diploma in homeopathy for the academic year 2018-19 amid a national row over the efficacy of so-called “alternative medicines”.

The change was confirmed on the faculty’s Twitter account, in a statement saying the university was “waiting to know the position of [health authority] the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) and national debates on the position of this subject and its teaching”.

Recently, some French doctors have disputed the effectiveness of homeopathy and question its place within the healthcare profession.

The debate comes after 124 healthcare practitioners signed an open letter to newspaper the Figaro Vox, calling for a ban on “alternative medicines” within the medical profession. The writers called the practices “dangerous”, “fantasist”, and without scientific foundation.

The open letter read: “Homeopathy, like these other ‘alternative medicines’, has no scientific basis. These practices are based on beliefs that promise miraculous, risk-free healing.”

One of the letter’s main concerns was that, if homeopathy is accepted as a normal medical practice, finite funds may be diverted towards it, at the expense of other treatments.

The letter said: “[It is at the] expense of other services. Some of these treatments are covered by medical insurance. Homeopathic products can be reimbursed by up to 30% (and even 90% in Alsace-Moselle) [but with] a derogatory disclaimer exempting them from proving their effectiveness.”

The letter writers - who have now launched the satirically-named website and group “#FakeMed” - called for homeopathic practitioners to be banned from presenting themselves as doctors, and demanded that certain diplomas in the discipline be discontinued.

Support for the letter has grown, with one Twitter supporter - a GP from the Nord - saying: “Nothing disgusts me more and motivates me to work against lies and ignorance. [These ‘doctors’] do not care about the science, and function on a basis of dishonesty. That is why I have signed my support for this letter.”

A union of homeopathic doctors, the Union Collégiale, said the letter was “insulting and unsupportive”.

Talks are now to be held and mediated by medical council l’Ordre des Médecins, with the new #FakeMed collective also taking part.

As suggested in the tweet from the Lille faculty, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) will be called upon to make a decision on the practice and diplomas in the discipline.

In a statement, the health minister said this would be a chance to “get the opinion of the commission on to the appropriateness of [health] coverage, and reimbursement of homeopathic medicine”.

A final decision from the HAS is expected by the end of February 2019.

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