A controversial master's degree in homeopathic medicine at one of Spain’s top universities has been scrapped, because of its “lack of scientific basis”.
Speaking to The Local, a spokesman from the University of Barcelona confirmed the course was being scrapped and gave three main reasons.
“Firstly, the university’s Faculty of Medicine recommended scrapping the master’s because of the doubt that exists in the scientific community,” the university's Communications Manager Jordi Sopena told The Local on Thursday.
“Secondly, a lot of people within the university – professors and students across different faculties – had shown their opposition to the course and thirdly, the postgraduate degree in homeopathic medicine is no longer approved by Spain's Health Ministry.”
“All of these reasons taken together convinced the university to stop the course,” he added.
The university started its Homeopathic Medicine Masters in 2004 at a total cost of €6,940, but the discipline has been criticized by doctors, scientists and even Spain's own Health Ministry, which in a 2011 report said that “homeopathy has not proved its effectiveness in any specific clinical situation”.
Sopena confirmed to The Local that the current course, which is due to finish in October 2016 and has 20 students, will continue to the end, but there will be no new courses in homeopathy.
Homeopathy, an alternative form of medicine invented in 1798 by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, is widely considered to be a “pseudoscience” – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific.
The basic principal of homeopathy is giving patients highly diluted versions of the substance that is causing their disease. Studies have found homeopathic remedies to be no more effective than sugar and water.
If patients feel better, it is because they have naturally recovered or they are feeling the “placebo effect”.
Despite its less than solid scientific credentials, the homeopathic industry in Spain is worth around €60 million annually.
The news has been praised by doctors and scientists in Spain, not least Adrián Gómez, a chemistry student at the university, who five months ago launched a petition on the website change.org calling for the homeopathy master's to be scrapped.
“These days homeopathy is a serious problem in our society,” Gómez writes in the petition, addressed to the rector of the University of Barcelona, Dídac Ramírez i Sarrió.
“Spanish society is in serious danger due to a lack of training in the field of scientific skepticism and we are cannon fodder for charlatans trying to sell sugar as gold.”
Various Spanish universities, such as the University of Valencia and the National Distance Learning University, offer postgraduate degrees in homeopathy while others, like the University of Córdoba and the University of Seville, have also scrapped their courses – in 2013 and 2009 respectively.
In a case that shocked Spain, a six year old boy died of diptheria in June 2015 after his mother, a physical therapist at a homeopathic clinic, refused to have her child vaccinated against the disease.