Neal’s Yard Remedies Offers Lethal Homeopathic Malaria Advice

Susan Curtis of Neil's Yard RemediesUnbelievably, nearly two years after BBC Newsnight exposed ten homeopaths offering dangerous advice to travellers about malaria protection, the BBC have found high street chain Neal’s Yard Remedies offering sugar pills as protection against malaria.

The BBC, in a press release, said,

The presenter of [BBC] Inside Out South West Janine Jansen was sold homeopathic remedies by the manager of Neal’s Yard in Exeter and was advised that she could use them to help deal with malaria.


This is quite an extraordinary happening. The BBC first exposed the dangers of unregulated homeopaths offering lethal malaria advice on their Newsnight programme. The Society of Homeopaths, the largest members club in the UK, refused to discipline or even condemn any of its members caught out. Furthermore, it refused to offer proper guidance to homeopaths on this subject. What it did do was legally threaten me when I pointed out their lack of action, it issued guidance to its members to keep their mouths shut when answering queries about this, and issued thoroughly misleading press statements saying why it took no action.

Nonetheless, an enormous amount of bad publicity was generated and it cannot have gone unnoticed at Neal’s Yard Remedies.

Neal’s Yard is a very well known brand in the UK with operations now in Japan and the US. Founded in the trendy and touristy Covent Garden area of London, it is well known for its bath and shower products. It also thinks it is in the medical and healthcare market. Its web site shows it offering all sort of herbal and homeopathic remedies as well as in-store therapies. For example, it says it can offer Hopi Ear Candling and tells the fib that that it is “a traditional healing technique of the Native American Hopi Indians”.

Neal’s Yard Remedies is offering a Malaria 30C Homoeopathic Remedy on its web site. This is again breathtaking. In the past, people like Professor David Colquhoun have exposed the ‘wicked scam‘ of such products, often sold overseas. We now see such products on the high street in the UK. A local newspaper has picked up on the story and interviewed Nicola Gillespie of Neal’s Yard in Exeter who said, “Homeopathy can be used for that (treatment of malaria)”, but then confusingly added, “We are not going to say they can prevent people from getting malaria”.

Let’s be quite clear. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that homeopathic sugar pills can prevent or cure malaria. The suggestion is utterly implausible and is no different from witchcraft. Dr Ron Behrens, the Director of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases Travel Clinic in London, said

making claims that homeopathic remedies can prevent or treat malaria was potentially highly dangerous and it puts people’s lives at risk.

Dr Peter Fisher, the Director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital and the Queen’s Homeopath, has previously said about such advice,

I’m very angry about it because people are going to get malaria – there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won’t find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.

Unfortunately, whilst Dr Fisher is absolutely right that people will get malaria if they follow such advice, he is wrong that you cannot find it in homeopathic textbooks. I founnd a book in my local bookshop this afternoon carrying this crazy nonsense. Rob Hinkley at SemiSkimmed has written about this in detail in response to this story.

We can perhaps understand Neal’s Yard’s position here when you appreciate that their ‘Director of Medicine’, Susan Curtis, has herself written a book entitled, Homoeopathic Alternatives To Immunisation, which is promoted as,

An invaluable guide for all travellers. This book contains practical information on preventing and treating major infectious diseases, including hepatitis, flu, malaria, measles and whooping cough.

Staggering. All these diseases are killers, especially in poorer countries, and if you were a traveller, you would want prompt and good medical care. Susan is a Member of the Society of Homeopaths. Their code of conduct expressly forbids them from stating or implying that they can cure named diseases. However, we know that the SoH will never discipline any of its members or fellows for doing so. We cannot look to homeopath’s ‘professional’ bodies to stamp out this insanity.

According to Healthwatch, Susan Curtis has no medical training. She was interviewed by the BBC but walked out after 15 minutes in a bit of a huff. The interviewer had to yell after her to ask if what she was doing was criminal. On the programme, Professor Edzard Ernst, Britian’s only holder of a chair in CAM, said,

It’s awful. I would not hesitate to call this criminal. I don’t know whether this is legally criminal but, in my view, this is so amoral and unethical that I would not hesitate to call it criminal.

This statement stands in stark contrast as to how Neal’s Yard likes to portray itself as ‘the ethical brand’. It won the Sunday Times ‘Best Ethical Brand’ last year. Will it put itself forward this year?

Curtis is well aware that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that magic sugar pills have any role in preventing or treating malaria. She is able to justify the sale herself by suggesting there is ‘evidence by extension’. What this means is that homeopaths ‘know’ homeopathy works. They do not need real and direct evidence. They can just ‘extend’ their delusions in any direction they wish. Criminal? Definitely, irresponsible beyond belief.

One area of law breaking that does need to be fully explored is to see if Neal’s Yard Remedies are in breach of the MHRA rules on medicines. Homeopaths have recently been given special dispensation to tell lies on the labels of their products, but as long as it is only for minor illnesses and after they have submitted a ‘dosier of delusions’ to the MHRA. The BBC have passed on their evidence to the MHRA to see if an offense has been committed. There are two possibilities – Neal’s Yard are selling such products without a license; the MHRA have given a license (which I doubt). Both would be a disgrace.

In the meantime, what will Neal’s Yard do? On their web site they say their values are to “take great care to be responsible in everything we do.” The only responsible thing to do right now would be to fire their Medicines Director, Susan Curtis, withdraw their homeopathy products, conduct a thorough review and get back to the business of selling perfumed bathroom products.

Something tells me this will not happen.

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A full transcript of the programme is now available at Thinking Is Dangerous.

See the follow up post to this at “Neal’s Yard Ethical Bullshit Remedy.”

And how the MHRA has clobbered them.

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On this theme…

21 Comments on Neal’s Yard Remedies Offers Lethal Homeopathic Malaria Advice

  1. They never learn do they? How stupid do you have to be to repeat advice that has got the profession into trouble before? One might begin to think that the homeopaths say one thing in public but, because they fervently believe in their healing delusions, in private will say something entirely different. They aren’t to be trusted or entrusted with the power to advise on any aspect of healthcare.

  2. Acleron, they lie because they cannot face the truth that their potions do not work. They have bought in, heart and soul, to a system that they believes heals. Because they cannot renounce their belief they see conspiracy and suppression whenever they are challenged. They cannot imagine their critics act in good faith and honesty because they know they are right. They think they are being smart, outwitting their critics, because they can apparently appease some of the criticism with silken platitudes and the occasional bit of grandstanding.

  3. Interesting post.

    I think there’s more insanity behind the “named disease” issue than you realise. The homeopath actually thinks that named diseases are a nasty reductionist allopathic idea, whilst homeopathy treats the whole person, nudging the vital force so that the whole is healed. When they use terms like “treats malaria” they are using it as a convenient short hand for the above in the same way biologists use “evolved to” as short hand for “those with trait X tended to survive long enough to mate because of Y and so trait X increased in the population”. That’s why the SoH code of ethics is so insidious. It looks to any sane person like it is constraining the claims homeopaths are allowed to make, but in a homeopaths eyes it is simply stating the obvious: namely that they do not treat named diseases.

  4. One quick way to find out if she is deluded or a fraudster would be to ask her to take her prophylaxis and then be bitten my malaria infected mozzies in the lab. If she declines she is a liar, if she accepts she is a fool.

  5. Derek – you are ansolutely right about the problem with what they mean by ‘treating named diseases’. I have written about this humpty dumpty approach to language a few times.

    Thye problem is that their customers (I do not call them patients) do believe in real diseases but homeopaths tend not to set forth their true beliefs on the matter, e.g. their belief in magic miasms and life-forces and their refusal to accept the science of simple things like ‘germ theory’. For them, the HIV virus in not the cause of AIDS but a result of a perturbed life force.

  6. Sorry, I’m getting in your way again on the LMSO blog again. Will bow out, sock it too them I say.

    Is there a way of finding out how many, if any, people die of malaria each year after travelling to malaria zones taking just homeopathic prophylaxis for malaria? If you have young gap year students, their whole life before them, dying of preventable disease, then you have a hell of a story. If actually most people who are using homeoprophylaxis are taking conventional medicine as well in a fanciful belts and braises approach then there is no story, but mercifully little harm done. I’d like to know which it is but I don’t know where to start.

  7. To be frank, my hope is that this is quite a minor problem in the UK. Most UK travellers who get malaria do not die as they get proper treatment. The point of this fight is that companies like NYR are wanting to undergo huge expansion and this sort of thing is worth nipping in the bud.

    Where, I guess, there is real harm is homeopaths in developing countries telling their porkies to local people. Malaria is utterly preventable, cheaply, but maybe not quite as cheap as a sugar pill. Homeopaths in africa and india look back to blighty as an example and confirmation of their murderous practice. Let’s not let that be too easy.

    • ‘companies like NYR are wanting to undergo hugh expansion’

      Erm, which is very much the case of large biomedical pharmaceutical drug companies, but I don’t see you having a go at them! There is overwhelming evidence that drug companies control the research, production and dissemination of drugs (such as anti-retrovirals) in ways that maximise their profits rather than ensure good health provision for people, particularly in developing countries. They also invent diseases in order to create a demand for drugs that they produce – see debates on ‘pink viagra’ where women’s sexuality is presented as deviant in order to sell drugs. Whereas evidence of similar mal-practice on such a grand scale against homeopathy simply does not exist.

  8. This is horrible. I’ve been meaning to boycott Neal’s Yard ever since I saw a “MMR: the debate” leaflet in there (er, which debate would that be..?) but unfortunately they do really fantastic skincare/shampoo stuff. Still. After seeing this I think my principles are going to have to come first – I can’t honestly justify giving them my money any longer. Grr, why couldn’t they just stick to cosmetics?

  9. Shops like Neals Yard have been sellng other products for years not endorsed by ‘science’ like Tea Tree oil; advertised as being anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, then some scientists decided to test it, over 2000 years after its first (documented) use. Then the scientific community tried the usual ‘We have discovered…’ bullshit.
    Do not be so completely cynical of anything that your precious ‘scientists’ have not endorsed for you…..in less than 100 years they will all have been consigned to the scrapheap of outdated scientific belief – note my use of the word belief; History has proved that science is as much a matter of faith as it is fact.

    • Actually, science is as much based on faith, belief, fashions in thinking and cultural practice as other forms of human behaviour. Anthropologist Laura Nader’s (1996) book ‘Naked Science’ has lots of interesting examples on this. The dichotomy of ‘faith/belief/irrationality/emotion’ versus ‘reason/evidence/science/rationality’ is now commonly accepted within most academic disciplines as being a product of Enlightment thinking, and is profoundly flawed. Philosopher Mary Midgley’s ‘The Myths We Live By’ is another interesting book which talks about this.

      • Again, what utter nonsense.

        The results of science are the exact opposite of faith. Perhaps you would like to contemplate that the next time you are on an airplane and depending on the results of sound science and engineering to keep you alive and not on the unevidenced faith of postmodernist know-nothings.

  10. How extraordinarily ignorant this article is and so many of the responses, it seems I have stumbled upon an enclave of those who believe in scientific proof as irrefutable evidence.

    It isn’t – it can be helpful, but unfortunately is too often manipulated to meet the needs of whichever pharmaceutical company is providing the funds.

    I never had much joy with homeopathic remedies until about 6 months ago, when I had an infected tooth and severe toothache which had kept me awake for 3 days. I am averse to antibiotics, but fortunately my dentist was not so blinkered as most and after I said no, suggested I try a homeopathic remedy. The pain went after 45 minutes, just when I was convinced that it wouldn’t work, it just disappeared. The infection went within 2 days and a tooth that ‘had to be extracted’ is now still sitting happily in my mouth.

    I’ve read all kinds of things about ‘placebo’ being the reason why, from even supposedly enlightened individuals, they just miss the point, as I guess most who view this blog will … because most are desperate to put down anyone with a belief that isn’t mainstream drug pushing.

    Interesting that many, probably most if the truth is known, drug tests are a distortion of the facts to suit the required results. Sure there are quacks about, the problem is that most of them are supposedly qualified to administer death delivering drugs.

    • Hello Patrick,

      Yes, tooth infections can spontaneously clear up and do so regularly. But it is common for such infections flare up periodically over time until it gets so bad that you have no choice but for it to be removed or you get seriously ill. People did die of this in the ‘olden days’.

      So, your gamble. Did the magic sugar pill work? Or were you just seeing the normal course of the disease. Your health and even life depends on your answer.

      • Hi,

        Of course they can, but it is my body and I know what happened and why.

        Exactly the same argument could be used for every antibiotic that anyone ever takes for tooth infection.

        If you prefer the “deadly sugar pill” of a drug, that is your choice. And, your health and life also depends upon it. Unfortunately drugs are directly responsible for causing a massive number of deaths every year – the same cannot be said of homeopathic remedies.

  11. “it is my body and I know what happened”

    Absolutely true. No problem with that

    “and why.”

    Absolutely false. It is an idiotic thing to assert. You perfectly encapsulate the fallacious thinking that keeps the money flowing to the quacks.

  12. What Patrick said;
    “I never had much joy with homeopathic remedies until about 6 months ago,”

    What Patrick means;
    ‘Nothing happened. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. A flukey coincidence occurred. I shall now ignore all the occasions on which nothing happened and trust my life to sugar pills.’

    Numpty.

  13. Hey guys, we just saw this article tweeted by someone in the UK on http://www.malariapp.com.

    It’s a shame to see people offering these kinds of treatments for malaria, as proper treatment is so easy to obtain! It’s causing unnecessary trouble to the individual who opts for these types of remedies, and it’s not good to see an actual retail chain advising that these are safe options.

    But great article guys and it was awesome to see it tweeted.

6 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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