Will homeopathy survive an age of limits?

The American rule is caveat emptor, which works well for those with homeopaths with something to sell.

Homeopathy is ineffective. Government support for it should be eliminated.

It cannot be right for the NHS to pay for homeopathic remedies which are no better than placebos while refusing to pay for cancer drugs that are effective, but judged too expensive.

That's from The Independent, and it's important for Americans to look at the context. Limits of any kind -- private insurance or government -- have to exclude something. So do you exclude science or what people think makes them feel good?

(Picture from the blog Treatment4autism.)

The situation in America is different. It's opponents of alternative medicine who are on the run, largely because patients pay for treatments themselves.

Some insurance policies do cover chiropractic, and many chiropractors are also homeopaths, but the FDA's current consumer site offers nothing on the topic.

Some states, including Florida, Missouri, and California explicitly endorse a consumer's right to seek alternative treatments, but that's not the same as paying for them.

Former Rep. Berkley Bedell founded what is now the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine after he became frustrated by the government's reluctance to fund studies of homeopathic treatments.

But the research even this group supports, like silver for wound treatment, are not far from the mainstream. Most of these studies are done outside the U.S.

The American rule is caveat emptor, which works well for those with homeopaths with something  to sell. The U.S. herb market is worth $5 billion, with the government intervening only when danger is proven, as in the "cold remedy" Zicam. The Nutrition Business Journal estimates the total alternative medicine market to be worth $45 billion.

The question is whether insurers should be made to pay. As pressure on insurance rates increase, and as the government becomes more involved in paying for care, the answer is increasingly likely to be no.

You may disagree, so convince me. Why should I pay for your homeopathic treatment?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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