Monday, September 04, 2006

UK to license 'witches brew', sorry, I mean homoeopathic remedies

When it comes to buying medicine in a high street pharmacy, it's always been a comfort to know that the product being purchased, actually does what it says it does. I've taken it completely for granted that pharmaceutical companies adopt a very strict regulatory Ronseal approach to their products, i.e... it 'does exactly what it says on the tin' school of medicine - but, it looks like thoughs days are well and truly over.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which licenses all pharmaceuticals in the UK is about to introduce a new regulatory scheme for witches brew, sorry, I meant to say, homoeopathic products. Well... it might as well be described as witches brew, because, manufacturers of homoeopathic products only need to show the MHRA, that the product is safe, and, has been used to treat particular conditions like minor ailments such as colds, coughs and hay fever. What the homoeopathic industry does not have to do under this scheme is to produce any evidence of efficacy from clinical trials, unlike legitimate pharmaceutical companies who have to prove their products are safe and effective.

What I'd like to know is, why is the national regulatory body giving scientific credibility to homoeopathic medicine by 'licensing them', even though it's blatantly obvious that homoeopathic remedies only have a placebo effect? Michael Baum, a cancer surgeon and former professor, argues that: 'this is like licensing a witches' brew as medicine so long as the bat wings are sterile'. A very simular conclusion is drawn over at Harry's Place where the new scheme is roundly condemed as 'yet another cow-towing to irrational superstition', and I agree.

In its defense, the MHRA argued, that their key motivation for the scheme was not about boosting the homeopathic industry, but, about 'protecting consumers and promoting choice' - now, let me see, buzzwords like 'consumers' and 'choice', where have I heard that old chestnut before? It's as if the more I hear the word 'choice' being mentioned, the less real choice I'll actually get, and in this particular case, some lives will be put at risk in the very near future - so, you have been warned, the next time you want to buy something like anti-malaria tablets, to take with you on your nice foreign holiday, you'd better make sure you make the right 'choice', and avoid any homoeopathic remedies - like it was the plague.

3 Comments:

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Matt M said...

Just noticed this on the Times website:

A furious row broke out today at Britain's premier science forum over the decision to allow believers in the paranormal to promote their views without challenge from the mainstream.

It's all getting rather depressing, isn't it? Was (half)listening to a debate on Radio 4 between a Dr person and homeopath - the latters argument was basically that a lot of people like homeopathy, and therefore it's a perfectly valid form of medicine. Reason is increasingly being sidelined in favour of sentiment.

The radio show Little Atoms has a great interview with Ophelia Benson (of Butterflies and Wheels) which covers this subject well - she suggests that the use of evidence is increasingly being seen as "elitist" and, according to some people, akin to fascism!

I think the education system is partially to blame. It's too focused on getting children to memorise facts from textbooks or the teacher. What experiments they're still allowed to do are simply to prove what they've already been told. We need to start foster a more critical attitude towards knowledge, or "I'd like to believe that..." is going to be increasingly seen as a valid argument.

 
At 1:54 AM, Blogger Roland Dodds said...

Another nice piece Courtney, and I whole heartedly agree with you. I don’t doubt that there are “natural remedies” within the natural world; it’s called a reasonable diet. But to replace scientific progress with nonsensical gurus is to do a disservice to us all.

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous supportadmin said...

Witches Brew might also be assigned to drugs tested and approved by the MHRA, but are not what they seem because of a lack of academic freedom.

Try this site

http://scientific-misconduct.blogspot.com/2006/08/procter-research-shenanigans-6-who.html

to find out how safe those MHRA approved drugs are - or whether the studies are done by the industry, GHOSTWRITTEN by eminent doctors not allowed to see the data they are meant to be "authoring" and what happens to those eminent experts when they insist on seeing the trial data before putting their names to the results.

 

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