MPs question government advice on homeopathy and cannabis

MPs have questioned the government's chief scientific adviser's advice on homeopathy and the reclassification of cannabis.

Photograph: iStockphoto/ Karen Massier
Photograph: iStockphoto/ Karen Massier

Professor John Beddington took up his post a year ago and the report by the House of Commons innovation, universities, science and skills committee ‘noted a change in his approach compared with his predecessor’.

The report adds: ‘We have some concerns - based on Professor Beddington's responses on our questions about homeopathy and the reclassification of cannabis - that the price of this new approach may be too high. There is a risk that the customary, strong public voice from the government chief scientific adviser advocating policy based on evidence-based science will become muted.’

The government funds homeopathic medicines through four specialist NHS hospitals and is expected to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug against the recommendation of its panel of drug advisers.

The report adds: ‘We are concerned that on homeopathy Professor Beddington did not take the opportunity to restate the importance of the scientific process and to state that what was important was the balance of scientific evidence, which in the case of homeopathy, does not provide strong evidence that it has an effect, beyond the placebo effect.

‘In both the case of cannabis reclassification and homeopathic treatments we are concerned that the government chief scientific adviser has not chosen to challenge departments where no evidence was produced.’

It adds: ‘Professor Beddington is the government chief scientific adviser and we are surprised that rather than champion evidence-based science within government he appears to see his role as defending government policy or, in the case of homeopathy, explaining why there is no clear government policy.’

neil.durham@haymarket.com

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