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What are the new rules on homeopathy in France?

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What are the new rules on homeopathy in France?
Demonstrators in Paris protest changes to rules on homeopathic treatments. Photo: AFP
08:24 CEST+02:00
Homeopathy will no longer be available on the French state health insurance system, the government has announced.

Under the current system, anyone who wants to use homeopathic remedies can swipe their carte vitale health card in the pharmacy and the government will reimburse part of the cost of the medication.

However, the French government decided on Tuesday that due to concerns about the proven effectiveness of the treatments, it will no longer be including homeopathy on the French state health insurance scheme.

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French health minister Agnes Buzyn. Photo: AFP

This means that although homeopathic remedies will still be available from practitioners and pharmacies, anyone who wants to use them will have to pay the entire cost themselves.

Although there are some variations within the carte vitale state health insurance system, at present the government generally refunds 30 percent of the cost of homeopathic medicines.

From January 1st, 2020 that will fall to 15 percent, and then down to zero by the end of 2021. 

The government's decision follows a report from the French state health body Haute autorité de santé (HAS) which concluded that homeopathic remedies had not been proven to be effective.

The body responsible for evaluating medicines concluded that homeopathic products had not "scientifically demonstrated sufficient efficacy to justify reimbursement".

"I have decided to start the process for complete non-reimbursement," French health minister Agnes Buzyn told the Le Parisien.

Buzyn, a prominent haematologist and university professor with no prior experience in politics before joining the government in 2017, has repeatedly made clear the importance of following scientific advice from the HAS.

According to French press reports, she had made clear that her position was at stake on the homeopathy issue, saying that the scientific credibility of the government was on the line.

Homeopathy is very popular in France, all pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies and doctors frequently prescribe homeopathic medicines in addition to conventional treatments.

Almost a million people have signed a petition against the proposed changes and a demonstration was held in Paris last month calling on the government not to scrap the reimbursement.

Maxence Rémond, a pharmacist, told French TV channel BFMTV that the price of homeopathic treatments could be set to rise.
 
He said: "The VAT on it is changing. It will be higher, so the price automatically increases, and because the laboratory and the pharmacy is then free to set its price, the price of the drug doubles or even triples."
 
The manufacture of homeopathic medicines also represents a significant employer in France, with 1,300 people working in the sector.
 
"We have a network of 28 establishments, it's going to be a huge loss of income and a huge job loss. What we want is to maintain this therapy, which is favoured by the French," said Vincent Mounier of trade union Force ouvrière Boiron. 
 
Last year, homeopathy represented €126.8 million out of the total of approximately €20 billion for all reimbursed drugs, according to the French state health insurance provider l'Assurance maladie.
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