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Snake Oil

More Quackery

Yep, folks, we’re doing it wrong. Making these small molecules, these biologics, all of it – we worry about pharmacokinetics and exposure, about side effects and potency and selectivity, and all the time we could be dosing folks with magic water. That’s what you’d get out of reading the literature on “release-active drugs”, anyway, which literature unfortunately exists. There have been several recent retractions, but those are just the tip of an iceberg of solid crap.

I had not heard of this particular breakthrough (update: more on this junk here), for which we have to thank a Russian company called “OOONPF Materia Medica Holding” (MMH). But it’s barely disguised homeopathy, with just enough of a tarp thrown over it to slip it past less-than-perfectly-attentive referees. These “release-active” thingies are “activated forms of ultra-low doses of antibodies“, and they’re activated by being diluted and shaken, don’t you know. And as for that ultra-low dose, how does a dilution of one part in ten to the 24th sound? Too concentrated? That’s why some of them go down to one part in ten to the 1991th power, an insane level of dilution that can only be dimly imagined.

Let us do a back-of-the envelope calculation. Our galaxy’s radius is roughly 52,850 light years. A spherical container the size of our galaxy, then, has a volume of 1.97 x 1014 light years, or 1.67 x 1062 cubic meters. We will fill this vessel with distilled water, and never mind where we get all 1.67 x 1065 liters needed to do so. Since we’ve already assumed a container with the radius of the galaxy, we shall further assume that it’s somehow at room temperature, and Avogadro-ing it out gives us about 5.6 x 1094 molecules of water therein. (Note, interestingly, that this is well over the estimate of the number of atoms (much less molecules) in the observable universe, because the observable universe consists overwhelmingly of empty space rather than matter at the density of liquid water!) Thus when we introduce one single solitary antibody molecule to our galaxy-flask and mix thoroughly, we have a dilution on the order of one part in ten to the ninety-fifth or so, rounding off.

But that’s nowhere near the concentration of many homeopathic preparations. You can, if you want to waste a bit of money, buy Oscillococcinum from a pharmacy; there’s a French company that is happy if you do. That one is duck liver diluted to one part in ten to the four hundredth power, a stupefyingly low concentration that homeopaths are convinced makes this a very potent and active preparation indeed.

So much for homeopathy. The problem is, MMH and its founder, one Oleg Epstein, have been throwing papers all over the place on this crap, as detailed here (coverage here at Forbes). A PubMed search for Epstein and his co-authors turns up plenty of un-retracted homeopathy published in indexed journals (that’s just from the first page of results), and (sadly) a number of trials at This is all whitewash. These people are selling distilled water and inert ingredients, giving it all a thin veneer of respectability by piggybacking on the medical establishment, and contaminating the scientific literature with noise and nonsense. Some of these papers have been retracted, often thanks to the work of Alexander Pachin and his colleagues (as detailed in the link up in the first paragraph), but there are plenty more still out there, and no doubt more on the way. You’d think that there’s enough bull out there in the world without deliberately adding to the piles, but there’s money to be made. Sigh.



87 comments on “More Quackery”

  1. Chad Irby says:

    Last year, I was feeling bad, so I took a lot of homeopathic medicine, and started feeling better immediately. After a short time, my dehydration was completely cured.

    1. Me says:

      ….but you developed type 2 diabetes?

  2. John Wayne says:

    The nice thing about homeopathy, and things that are almost homeopathy, is that it is probably safe.

    There is always an opportunity for folks to sell dirty water … the burning means it is working.

    1. Isidore says:

      Safe, as long as the patient does not decide to discontinue his/her physician-prescribed therapy that enriches the vile drug companies and rely exclusively on homeopathy.

      1. Vader says:

        Like Steve Jobs did?

    2. Athaic says:

      Well, usually, but there are exceptions.
      A bit less than a decade ago, some homeopathic drug had to be removed from the market, as it was made with belladonna extracts, diluted to a mere 1/100 or so, IIRC.
      The drug was intended for babies, to help them with seething teeth. Turned out the diluted extracts were still containing enough active substances to do harm.

      1. CatCube says:

        To be fair, it would make the babies be quiet.

        1. loupgarous says:

          Athaic says:
          28 March, 2019 at 1:06 pm
          Well, usually, but there are exceptions.
          A bit less than a decade ago, some homeopathic drug had to be removed from the market, as it was made with belladonna extracts, diluted to a mere 1/100 or so, IIRC.
          The drug was intended for babies, to help them with seething teeth. Turned out the diluted extracts were still containing enough active substances to do harm.
          CatCube says:
          30 March, 2019 at 11:03 pm
          To be fair, it would make the babies be quiet.

          (…wait for it)

          …too quiet.

    3. ShadowSnap says:

      Safe, assuming they follow some semblance of quality control. Under current regulations, they’re under no obligation to do that.

  3. Hap says:

    Can’t they be nailed for false advertising? If you can’t possibly dilute something below 1e-95, then any claims of such dilutions have to be false, either because there’s more stuff in them than claimed, or because there’s none.

    I imagine people would be interested in their analytical methodology if they weren’t selling supplements and actually had to report analytical data. The LOD and LOQ would have to be really good.

    1. Athaic says:

      Nope. Different laws for not-medicinal stuff, homeopathy is generally considered as safe, so no worry, and their advertisement is focused on the helpfulness of their infinitely diluted drugs, not on the actual content.
      Also, technically, a 1e-95 dilution could be done. Just mix 1 microliter in 1 liter, thirty-six times in a serial dilution, if I got it correctly.

      1. Hap says:

        See above – there aren’t enough molecules of water in the universe to pull it off (and that’s assuming only one molecule is present – even with big things like antibodies, that’s unlikely).

        Antibodies are also likely to stick to things (like plastic, glass, etc.) so that they aren’t going to divide well into portions. Also, with only a few molecules of something you’re unlikely to get an averaged distribution, but something more perverse (dilutions might not behave the way you intend).

      2. Click says:

        The initial dilution of 0.001/1000 is 1E-6 and all subsequent dilutions do the same so it only takes a mere 16 dilutions to 1E-96. One can do this galaxy sized dilution in less than a half hour if you’re motivated enough!

        1. Vampyricon says:

          But the point is that it’s either infinitely diluted or not dilute enough, if we’re considering the number of active ingredient molecules divided by the amount of water.

  4. PFI says:

    homeopathy – the ultimate in ligand efficiency…

    1. Peter Kenny says:

      A very perceptive comment. There is no thermodynamic distinction between a solute that is infinitely small and a solute that is infinitely dilute.

      1. PFI says:

        It seems that the placebo effect could be derived from a linear “mixed” model of ligand efficiency at infinite dilution. Not sure if placebo effects have already been incorporated as fixed effects in the advanced models currently being generated at the Hogwarts School of Thermodynamics.

        1. A most reasonable hypothesis that will surely prove seminal in the forecast of properties. Groundbreaking research at the Hogarts Institute for Advanced Studies reveals that “He Who Must Not Be Named” is actually none other than Lord Kígyó Olaj who is revered as Baron Samedi of Voodoo Thermodynamics in Western Hispaniola. I predict that the Baron will win the Nobel Prize for conclusive demonstration in a quadruple blind trial that the zombie transition is due to entropy-driven engagement of water dimers by the CNS.

    2. Old Timer says:

      No, it’s gotta be a protac.

    3. Anonymous says:

      PFI: “homeopathy – the ultimate in ligand efficiency…” – Shouldn’t that be ligand deficiency?

  5. myma says:

    Yes, the impurities from the magic tap water are at higher concentration than the “active”.

  6. Derek, you really need to be more positive because you are giving science bloggers a bad reputation. If you carry on like this we’re going to set up a GoFundMe to send you on that positive thinking workshop. If the water is completely de-ionized then the water molecules no longer lose memory by quantum mechanical tunneling and engagement of target is driven purely by enthalpy, in compliance as prescribed by of the Budapest Enthalpomics Group (BEG).

  7. Ilya says:

    What is even more worrisome, is that this Epstein was elected full member of Russian Academy of Science (RAS), which is by itself a shame for this organization. Moreover, as far as I know there are no legal procedures to exclude him from there.

    Thank you for mentioning Alexander. I am proud to be one of the signers of the Memorandum against homeopathy created by Panchin and issued by RAS Commission against pseudo-science. So strange to see the same organization promoting and fighting pseudo-science at the same time.

  8. Ilya says:

    What is also awful is that some of the MMH “drugs” are included in the list of essential medicines in Russia and can be prescribed for flu, HSV and even encephalitis!

    1. Dmitry says:

      We have recently covered this in a review published by Antiviral Research (same issue as the retractions). A lot of problems are common for Russian medicine, use of homeopathy one of less harmful 🙁

  9. Uncle Al says:

    Thus when we introduce one single solitary antibody molecule to our galaxy-flask and mix thoroughly,” Your error is omitting succussion! Though commonly performed by striking against a leather-bound book (possibly inert toward vegans and PETAns), scale up demands a supernova, hence “imponderables” and “nosodes.”

    Like astrology, socialism, and HUD, homeopathy always works when it works. If homeopathy has a singular fault, it is not embracing Indian panchagavya (where dilution is an asset).

    1. Yawn says:

      Agree with everything apart from your cheap shot at socialism. One only need to compare the Nordic countries to the US to see that socialism in fact works very well indeed.

      1. Nick K says:

        News to me that Norway, Sweden and Denmark are socialist. I thought they had strong laws protecting individual property and liberty.

        1. Athaic says:

          You are thinking of communism.
          There is a difference. Ask Léon Blum, the founder of the French socialist party, one day.

          1. Lane Simonian says:

            There are many different forms of socialism: utopian socialism (mixed agrarian and small-industrial communities based on collective work and social equality), evolutionary/democratic socialism (democratic elections and the development of policies for the general welfare such as national health care), and Marxist socialism. Marx believed that a strong socialist state would be needed to wipe out the remnants of the capitalist class leading to a stateless, classless society (communism). Of course, the latter never happened.

            I remember the conservative columnist George Will complaining that the U.S. was so far along the path to socialism that soon people would be getting free books. I said to myself, yes it is called a public library.

            Unfortunately, in ideological debates, the historical context of terms is often lost.

            Sorry, just my chance to reflect on history rather than on science.

        2. Yawn says:

          Oh dear, the usual American inability to distinguish socialism from communism. How embarrassing! Yes, Scandinavia is very socialist. I

          1. Hap says:

            I thought Nick K was British.

            We understand socialism in America – it’s whatever government action one of our political parties doesn’t like, and therefore must obviously be pure evil. Do you think we’re not politically sophisticated here?

          2. Hap says:

            Sorry, this is OT. I’ll be quiet while I have the chance.

          3. Nick K says:

            I had always thought socialists believed in collective ownership of the means of production, but I’m quite willing to change my mind.

          4. The Lunatic says:

            Okay, just to clearly avoid any “American” misunderstanding, let’s check the Oxford English Dictionary, created, written, and edited by Englishmen in England, on the English definition of the English word “socialism”:

            1. A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all.
            2. A state of society in which things are held or used in common.

            Now, in Sweden, under 3% of all non-agricultural employees work for state-owned enterprises. Similarly, only 15% of the land is owned by public institutions, with the rest in various forms of private ownership

            So, no, if you’re speaking English, “socialism” is not the system of Sweden.

    2. Jim Mowreader says:

      Succussing a container weighing 1.67 x 10^65 kilograms (plus whatever the jar weighed) is a task even the Mighty Arm of Samuel Hahnemann might have a bit of trouble with.

  10. luysii says:

    Well as long as we’re talking idiotic concentrations, let’s look at the nanoDomain, beloved by neurophysiologist (and Nobel laureate) Neher.

    The chemist can be excused for not knowing what a nanodomain is. They are beloved by neuroscientists, and defined as the part of the neuron directly under an ion channel in the neuronal membrane. Ion flows in and out of ion channels are crucial to the workings of the nervous system. Tetrodotoxin, which blocks one of them, is 100 times more poisonous than cyanide. 25 milliGrams (roughly 1/3 of a baby aspirin) will kill you.

    Nanodomains are quite small, and Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. vol. 110 pp. 15794 – 15799 ’13 defines them as hemispheres having a radius of 10 nanoMeters from channel (a nanoMeter is 10^-9 meter — I want to get everyone on board for what follows, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence). The paper talks about measuring concentrations of calcium ions in such a nanodomain. Previous work by a Nobelist (Neher) came up with 100 microMolar elevations of calcium in nanodomains when one of the channels was opened. Yes, evolution has produced ion channels permeable to calcium and not much else, sodium and not much else, potassium and not much else. For details read the papers of Roderick MacKinnon (another Nobelist). The mechanisms behind this selectivity are incredibly elegant — and I can tell you that no one figured out just what they were until we had the actual structures of channels in hand. As chemists you’re sure to get a kick out of them.

    The neuroscientist (including Neher the Nobelist) cannot be excused for not understanding the concept of concentration and its limits.

    So at a concentration of 100 microMolar (10^-4 molar) how many calcium ions does a nanoDomain contain? Well a liter has 1000 milliliters and each milliliter is 1 cubic centimeter (cc.). So each cubic centimeter is 10^7 nanoMeters on a side, giving it a volume of 10^21 cubic nanoMeters. How many cubic nanoMeters are in a hemisphere of radius 10 nanoMeters — it’s 1/2 * 4/3 * pi * 10^3 = 2095. So there are (roughly) 5 * 10^17 such hemispheres in each cc.

    How many ions are in a cc. of a 1 molar solution of calcium — 6 * 10^20 (Avogadro’s #/1000). How many in a 10^-4 molar solution (100 microMolar) — 6 * 10^16. How many calcium ions in a nanoDomain at this concentration? Just (6 * 10^16)/(5 * 10^17) e.g. just over .1 ion/nanodomain. As Bishop Berkeley would say this is the ghost of a departed ion.
    Does any chemist (and there are a lot of you reading this) out there think that speaking of a 100 microMolar concentration in a volume this small is meaningful?

    I’d love to be shown where this calculation is wrong (if it is).

    Please show me where this calculation is incorrect.

    1. NJBiologist says:

      Luysii, it looks like you’re calculating area by drawing a radius around a point. However, I think the diameter of the inside of a sodium channel is ~10 nm. Not much of a difference, but it does add a bit.

      1. luysii says:

        NJBiologist: 10 nanoMeters is 100 Angstroms, much larger than a sodium atom (maximum diameter under 5 Angstroms), so I think your source for the figure is incorrect. Perhaps you meant 10 Angstroms.

        1. NJBiologist says:

          Yes, I was wrong–I meant the *outside* of the channel. Ugh.

    2. MrRogers says:

      In a closed system, you’d be correct that fractional ion numbers don’t make sense, but this is an open system. A better way of thinking about it is the fraction of time during which a Ca++ ion can be found in that space. When the channel opens it goes from 0.01% to 10%. Given the large number of multivalent Ca++ binding proteins in a cell that can serve as coincidence detectors, this difference can have substantial biological effects.

      1. luysii says:

        MrRogers: Interesting point. Certainly proteins can sop up calcium and change their conformation doing so. It would be nice to know the velocity and mean free path of a calcium ion in solution, and how far it can move (Brownian motion) in a milliSecond or two. Proteins have all sorts of ways to catch calcium, from carboxyl acids to EF hands etc. etc. It would be of interest to know how many synaptic proteins have them, and undergo conformational change. Of course bound calcium wouldn’t be included in the concentration in free water, which is what my calculation was based on. Thanks for commenting

        1. MrRogers says:

          Synapses are rich in calmodulin, which undergoes massive conformational change upon Ca++ binding. Also, the Ca++ concentrations you are citing are free. Total stays roughly constant at ~2mM.

      2. luysii says: has a picture of calmodulin solvated in a 44 Angstrom (4.4 nanoMeters) radius sphere. Calmodulin has 4 EF hands each of which can bind calcium. The volume of a sphere containing calmodulin is (4/3) times pi times 4.4^3 == 357 cubic nanoMeters. So the nanoDomain described above contains 2095 cubic Nanometers and could accommodate 6 such calmodulins (assuming nothing else is present) allowing the binding of 24 calcium ions. Describing calcium ‘concentration’ in such a small volume seems dodgy to me.

        1. MrRogers says:

          How then do you propose to understand the likelihood that a given Ca++ binding site will be occupied? (Also, FWIW, you radically underestimate how crowded a synapse is. To calculate the packing of calmodulin in such a space as though it were floating free in a dilute solution portrays an erroneous picture.)

          1. luysii says:

            MrRogers: I’m very aware of how crowded the synapse is (post-synaptic density on one side, synaptic vesicles and SNAREpins on the other) although many of the calcium channels lie just outside the synapse proper (but not the NMDARs). I don’t think any of these structures are actually within the nanoDomain. The point of the calmodulin example was to show how very little room there is in the nanoDomain as defined in Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. vol. 110 pp. 15794 – 15799 ’13.

            I don’t have the biophysical chops to do this, but it would be interesting to see just how many calcium ions get in with a channel opening time of 1 – 5 milliseconds (channel conductances in model systems are known) and how far they get with over (diffusion constants in water are known), but these are systems far removed from biological reality.

    1. Stephen says:

      At my age I am certain that water has a better memory than I do

  11. Charles H. says:

    Well, for what it’s worth I had a cough syrup that was labeled homeopathic, and it was the best non-prescription cough syrup I ever used. (I think it was falsely labeled, but I was after a “sugar free” cough syrup, and those are hard to find. So I tried this, and it worked quite well. I’ve no idea what the active ingredient actually was.)

    1. Deadpool says:

      Jellyfish apoaequorin???

    2. SirWired says:

      The active ingredient was the placebo effect and time.

    3. myma says:

      I have a very special herbal cough syrup I use. Its an extractive preparation in ethanol.

      (Half whiskey, with honey ginger squeeze of fresh lemon star anise cardamom cloves cinnamon stick, topped up with hot water.)

  12. Jason Martin says:

    Bravo Derek…….This Epstein guy even had the balls to fill an entire journal issue with this garbage. Check out this link…..he’s on every paper!

    Well done to Alexander Panchin for going after him….we must all do our best to identify charlatans (yes referees of papers, I’m talking to you) and see to it that they are seen for what they are.
    Makes my blood boil!

  13. MoMo says:

    Billions believe in a “Cloud Guy” that is the creator of heaven and Earth and is based on religious fantasia, killing Millions and Billions over time and now the Russians want you to believe in homeopathy so you can heal the sick? Who is anyone to judge?

    Humanity is still on course to be the Dumb Animals we all know we are. And the publishers of such tripe are even more ignorant as they get paid to do this.

    1. Vader says:


      “Homeopathy is without basis, therefore religion is without basis.”

      There may be a flaw or two in that logic.

  14. anon says:

    To a (former) professional astronomer, “Our galaxy’s radius is roughly 52,850 light years” sounds odd. Four significant digits isn’t very “rough” especially when talking about something as ill-defined as the radius of a galaxy.

  15. James Donovan says:

    Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds – highly recommend this 1841 read by the late Charles Mackay. I remember reading it the first time and engaging in some transient optimism that we had learned some lessons over time. But then this kind of stuff…

  16. Druid says:

    I want to know how the manufacturers define the shelf-life of this water. Is it when the concentration falls below 95% or when the dilution falls below 95%? Or is it when the bugs in the non-sterile water deposit a thick sludge on the bottom of the vial?

    1. jmowreader says:

      Druid, the “shelf life” of homeopathic preparations is eternal, or until they find someone gullible enough to buy the stuff.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Per 21 CFR 211.137(e), homeopathic drugs are exempt from labeling with an expiration date. Problem solved.

      1. Druid says:

        Thanks. I thought I was done wasting my time on this junk. Europe has many pages of regulations on the subject. “Stability data from the homeopathic stocks are generally transferable to the dilutions/triturations thereof.” This flies in the face of the experience of analytical chemists who know that the more dilute a solution, the faster it degrades. It seems it is quite hard to regulate pseudoscience.

  17. Evgenia says:

    This paper linked to the post is by other Epstein

  18. Max Deaton says:

    “Mix thoroughly” hahaha I really liked that part

  19. tlp says:

    The volume of average human body is 66.4 L (google), so if you accidentally get a single molecule you’d be overdosed to the factor of ~10^1964. Not surprisingly the therapy has mixed results – so hard to stay away from all those antibodies in the universe.

    1. WildCation says:

      Technically, since in homeopathy concentration is inversely correlated to potency, if you got a single molecule you’d actually be less affected than if you had just pure water.

    2. Matthew TKK says:

      Doesn’t this mean that every person is ALREADY DOSED WITH ALL HOMOEOPATHIC REMEDIES? No wonder I feel so healthy.

  20. Benonymous says:

    Maybe all those stirrer bars from the earlier posts were contaminated with homeopathic palladium?

  21. Wavefunction says:

    There are huge numbers of people all around the world who swear by homeopathy, including some smart people with PhDs from Ivy League universities who I know. The only explanation I can think of for this most incomprehensible phenomenon is that their beliefs are not based on rational thinking, and as the quote ascribed to many goes, “You cannot rationally argue a man out of what he didn’t rationally get into”. So the sad thing is that posts like this, as edifying as they are to the rest of us, are going to be pretty much useless in convincing the believers.

  22. milkshake says:

    “potentiating” stuff by diluting it is positively Orwellian. But at least it becomes less harmful by dilution as the starting “active ingredients” in homeopatic “medicines” tend to be nasty

  23. fred says:

    The best argument against homeopathy is the fact that it hasn’t been developed and weaponized by the US Military and its related agencies. Don’t forget these are agencies that actively researched UFOs and the various areas of psychic activity for several years.

    There’s a reason homeopathic warfare isn’t a thing.

    1. Terra says:

      Who says it’s not? At this moment, somewhere in a secret location in the Nevada desert, there may be a scientist carefully taking a solution of uranium in water through a couple hundred serial dilutions with the intent of creating the homeopathic atomic bomb, a small glass of water that can be shaken and tossed out of a plane with devastating results. The only problem is, thanks to the potentiating power of shaking and serial dilution, the end result will be a doomsday weapon, completely impossible to test without the risk of wiping out humanity.

      1. Derek Freyberg says:

        “Purity of essence”, or Dr. Strangelove revisited.

      2. Sympa says:

        Wan’t the homeopathic thing supposed to invertthe effect of the diluted substance? Alcohol gives you a headache, dilute enough and it will cure your headache.
        I suppose diluted uranium would cure the effects of radiation, possible sap all energy from all living things, drain all batteries and gas tanks immediately…

        1. Jim Mowreader says:

          That’s exactly right. The whole art of homeopathy is based on “like cures like” and a series of “provings” made by Samuel Hahnemann’s friends in the 1800s. They would get together and eat various nasty things – potassium cyanide, strychnine, uranium, dog feces, whatever – and record the effects the substance had on the eater. (Which must have been entertaining when they got around to the serious poisons; very few people want to be the one to “prove” arsenic will kill you. Especially since we already know that. And I really want to know how they came up with the idea dog feces would make a suitable remedy for anything.) Then they whip up a batch of that substance, just diluted past the point of reason, and pronounce it the “cure” for whatever the stuff did to you in the first place.

  24. pck says:

    This makes me sad – time for a homeopathic beer.

    1. Nick K says:

      Thanks for reminding us of a classic sketch! It should be watched by everyone who believes in Homeopathy.

    2. Zemyla says:

      A homeopathic beer would actually (if you believed in homeopathy) treat alcohol symptoms. The way it’s prepared in the video makes it a far more effective hangover cure than most.

  25. Baltic says:

    This is yet another example of “nationalist science” Derek has mentioned a few times in the past. Russian scientists from their Academy of Science requested their Ministry of healthcare to approve the “release-active drugs” in December of 2017.

    Which is less than a year after Russian Academy of Science declared that homeopathy is pseudoscience and doesn’t, and cannot work (this was announced in February of the same year).

  26. Hanno Wertal says:

    Two comments:
    1. You don´t have to mix your molecule of substance into your galaxy of water as you cannot distribute one molecule…
    2. A colleague of mine was at a GMP-training together with someone from the french “homeopathic” company. When the topic of cleaning residues/MACO came up, discussion became very interesting.

  27. loupgarous says:

    It’s fun to call homeopathy “European sympathetic magic” in comment spaces and wait for a true believer to leave dents in the ceiling.

  28. anon says:

    I find my homeopathic concoctions make me feel much better if I dilute in ~50% ethanol rather than pure water.

  29. Daren Austin says:

    One for the aficionados who may not be aware of the power of homeopathy


    1. loupgarous says:

      The end of the Daily Telegraph article on NHS finally refusing to fund homeopathy had some unintentional humor (for regular readers here, anyway):

      “Commenting on the latest figures, Prof Colquhoun said: “The NHS England guidance was very clear – there is zero benefit from homeopathy.

      “It is astonishing that doctors are continuing to prescribe homeopathic treatments, apparently in a direct contradiction of this guidance.

      “While the cost is relatively small [compared to the whole NHS budget], it seems ridiculous that anyone is still prescribing them at all.”

      He said patients who were “true believers” in homeopathy should be advised to fund the treatments themselves.

      A High Court judge upheld NHS England’s decision to stop funding homeopathic remedies in June last year, after a case was brought against it by the British Homeopathic Association (BHA).

      Last night, BHA chief executive Cristal Sumner said: “We are not surprised to hear that GPs are still prescribing homeopathy. As we made clear in our legal challenge to NHS England, many doctors recognise the benefits of homeopathy for their patients.

      “Homeopathy costs relatively little, can be used for acute and chronic conditions, [and] has no side effects… It is time for the NHS to encourage more homeopathy to be prescribed, not less.”

      An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS has issued guidance making it clear to GPs that homeopathy should not be prescribed, and to give further legal force to this we will now be formally requesting that the Department of Health blacklist it so that funds cannot be wasted in this way.”

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