To investigate the extent of homoeopathic prescribing in primary care for childhood diseases and assess GP attitudes towards the use of homoeopathy in children.
Homoeopathic prescribing in primary care was assessed in 167 865 children aged 0-16 years for the year 1999-2000. Computerized prescribing data were retrieved from 161 representative general practices in Scotland. Medical attitudes towards homoeopathic prescribing to children were also assessed via a questionnaire survey.
During the year 1999-2000 22% (36) of general practices prescribed homoeopathic medicines to 190 (1.1/1000 registered) children. The majority of such prescriptions were issued to children under 1 year of age (8.0/1000 registered children). The most frequently prescribed medicines were for common self-limiting infantile conditions such as colic, cuts and bruises, and teething. A total of 259 completed questionnaires were returned by GPs, giving a response rate of 75%. GPs who frequently prescribed homoeopathic medicines to children (more than 1 per month) were more likely to claim an interest in homoeopathy, have had a formal training and keep up to date in the discipline, and refer on to a homoeopath (P < 0.001 for all variables) than those GPs who prescribed less than once a month or never. The majority of GPs who prescribed homoeopathic medicines did so when conventional treatments had apparently failed (76%), while 94% also perceived homoeopathy to be safe. Frequent prescribers reported a more positive attitude towards homoeopathic medicines than those who prescribed less frequently. Non-prescribers reported a lack of proven efficacy and lack of training as the main reasons for not prescribing homoeopathic medicines (55% and 79%, respectively). However non-prescribers from within homoeopathic prescribing practices reported a more favourable attitude in general towards homoeopathy and less resistance towards prescribing in the future than non-prescribers from practices where none of the partners practiced homoeopathy.
In primary care paediatric prescribing of homoeopathic medicines most commonly occurs for self-limiting conditions in infants less than 1 year of age. Although the current level of homoeopathic prescribing is low, the widespread use in the community suggests that at least some knowledge of the main indications for homoeopathy and the preparations used would be of benefit to registered medical practitioners.
- primary health care
- complementary medicine