More than 60 per cent of homeopathic medicines currently on sale in Italy will no longer be legally allowed, if a draft law published by the ministry of health passes both houses of parliament. The measure proposes that before these alternative medicines may be sold, they must undergo tests similar to those applied to conventional medicines, even though it is well known and accepted that homeopathic medicines are often made up of substances that work in a completely different way from conventional medicines.

The law is designed to bring Italy into line with a European Union directive to control the use, production and testing of homeopathic and other non-conventional medicines by 2008.

The use of homeopathy in Italy rose by 10 per cent in 2004, and there are more than 10,000 practitioners and nine million patients. The market in these alternative medicines is estimated to be worth 300 million a year.