15/03/2015 14:54 GMT | Updated 15/05/2015 06:59 BST

Gimme Some Sugar: The People Want Homeopathy, But That Doesn't Mean They Should Get It

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has weighed in where the Cochrane Collaboration has before, to conclude what we already knew - that homeopathy is a load of tosh.

For homeopathy to work, many of the laws of science would have to be rewritten. It's not a competition, but dare I say it, homeopathic claims are even more far out than those of the creation scientists I wrote about lately.

Homeopathic principles are couched in a pseudoscientific process of diluting 'cures' to the realms of non-existence, based on the thoroughly implausible theory of water holding a 'memory'. The result is neatly packaged sugar pills.

This latest report has left many homeopathy supporters aggrieved, yet we've been here before - in 2010, a House of Commons select committee considered all the evidence and concluded that homeopathy was no more effective than a placebo and that the NHS should stop funding it.

The government agreed with the verdict but nevertheless felt that, if patients want homeopathy, they should have it on the NHS.

And people really do want it - a YouGov poll recently found that 39% of people think homeopathy works, with 26% of people saying it should be available on the NHS.

Give the people what they want? I have a few problems with this.

First, if it's a sugar hit you're after (homeopathic remedies are after all sugar pills) why not give out free Krispy Kreme donuts on the NHS? No doubt this would be a hugely popular policy and donuts are well known as an effective remedy for numbing life's unrelenting existential angst.

As Edzard Ernst says, "undeterred by the evidence, the public continue their long and intense love affair with homeopathy".

A musical interlude, if I may...

In all seriousness, homeopathy is a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money when, on the grounds of cost, evidence-based treatments that could make a real difference to people's lives (such as these treatments for MS) are not made available on the NHS.

Second, doesn't the government have a responsibility to uphold evidence-based policy?

Now it could be argued that homeopathy is a powerful placebo, rooted in a majestic history of only the finest placebos. The placebo effect is indeed a real thing, but that is not reason enough to prescribe homeopathic remedies. Not to mention that it violates the NHS constitution, which says people have the right to expect that decisions made on drugs and treatments are based on 'proper consideration of the evidence'.

The UK has a world class education system and a world class National Health Service, but both of these are being undermined when policy makers continue to pollute minds with the idea that unfounded treatments, which fly in the face of scientific evidence, can find a space in our NHS.

Third, the whole thing is downright dangerous. As the latest report warns, people who choose homeopathy may put themselves at risk if they reject or delay effective medicines. This includes serious consequences, like the four people who died in this study.

This isn't the first time I've written about the dangers of hokum pokum, and it terrifies me to think how large and influential homeopathy's reach has become.

In 2009 promotion of homeopathy in developing countries had reached something of a crisis point, with widespread and seductive claims that homeopathic remedies could treat serious diseases like HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea. Researchers and doctors successfully called on the World Health Organization to condemn the practice, fearing that vulnerable patients were dying when the remedies were peddled as a cheap and effective alternatives with fewer side effects.

And as if that wasn't enough of a smack down, earnest homeopaths recently waded in to the Ebola outbreak to offer their services. Unsurprisingly they were branded as 'cruel' and 'irresponsible'.

When will the madness end? Homeopathy has become such a joke that it's even made its way into a Mitchell and Webb sketch, which - reports and meta-analyses aside - you'd think would be the wake up call that's direly needed. It's time for the UK government to set an example and pull the plug on public funding for homeopathy.

This article originally featured on the author's blog, The Mehta Analysis.