A Quack’s Charter

It’s outrageous. And yet another cowtowing to irrational superstition. Once again the touchy-feelies trump evidence-based science. The modern-day medicine-show carpet-baggers who call themselves “homeopaths” will now be allowed to display their absurd claims on the box under the National Rules System. This insane move, apparently, “is designed to bring homeopathic remedies into line with licensed medicines”.

According to The Guardian:

Packaging on homeopathic products will be allowed to describe the illnesses they claim to be able to treat under a controversial licensing scheme introduced by the government today. The National Rules System is designed to bring homeopathic remedies into line with licensed medicines – but doctors and scientists say it will legitimise products that have no scientific evidence to support their claims.

Perhaps, if the government wants to bring homeo-potty into line with licensed medecines, it should start by requiring that it comply with clinical trials and peer-reviews to verify and replicate its medicinal claims!

Evan Harris MP is entirely correct to say that this move has “diluted and polluted” the regulation of medicine.

While the government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency claims that “this is a significant step forward in the way homeopathic medicines are regulated. Products authorised will have to comply with recognised standards of quality, safety and patient information,” Michael Baum, emeritus professor of surgery at University College London quips: “This is like licensing a witches’ brew as a medicine so long as the bat wings are sterile.”

If you think about it, what other products – medical or otherwise – are allowed to make untrue or unverifiable claims?

The horror is that an uninformed person will buy a homeopathic product based on the snazzy packaging and the claim on the box, not realising that it is not the equivalent of Savlon, or any other clinically tested and known-to-be-effective remedy and then use it in an emergency. If your toddler burns her hand or bumps his head, do you want to be unknowingly administering some play-play salve that requires a belief in mumbo-jumbo and an outer-body experience to be effective?

Hopefully some consumer advocacy group will turn this insanity to its advantage and bring a case against products which cannot demonstrate that they do what they claim to do.

Study after study has shown that so-called homeopathic “remedies” show little significant differences as a treatment than sugar pill placebos.

Recently a wealthy sceptic, James Randi, offered $1 Million to anyone who could provide convincing evidence of the effects of homeopathic “medicine”. The BBC’s Horizon programme went to great legnths to win the money, but failed miserably. They concluded:

“To Randi’s relief, the experiment was a total failure. The scientists were no better at deciding which samples were homeopathic than pure chance would have been.”

So why is the government flying in the face of solid evidence? Why are euphimisms like “complementary therapies” being drafted in to obscure the bleedin’ obvious? Perhaps Prince Charles is running the country. We should be told.

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society has allerted me to a related incident. In the US, reports The Washington Post, a “small but growing number of practices around the country … tailor the care they provide to the religious beliefs of their doctors”. Brochures advertise services by doctors who blend “the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus, of course, believed that “unclean spirits” were the cause of medical complaints.

How long before the UK starts allowing the Gideon Society to make medical claims too?