Homeopaths have been in a panic over the MHRA’s activities in cleaning up existing medicines’ law. MPs have been bombarded with desperate,but misleading claims,that the law isbeing changed and that they will be put out of business.
The law is not being changed. But they may well indeed be out of business soon.
The MHRA has issued its own response to this campaign.
UK medicines legislation (including for homeopathy) is being consolidated. The law is not being changed. The consolidation will happen through the Human Medical Regulations 2012, which were due to come into force in July 2012. They will be laid under the negative resolution procedure.
Some homeopathic practitioners are concerned that following the consolidation the law will be enforced. They believe that this could end the sale of unauthorised homeopathic medicines over the internet and telephone. They are seeking a change in UK law.
In 2010 the Science and Technology Select Committee examined Government policy on homeopathy. It found that homeopathic products are placebos, it questioned whether their use in the NHS was ethical and it called for changes to their regulation. The report received vociferous support and opposition from a number of groups.
The Government responded that it agreed with “many” of the Committees conclusions, but it rejected substantive changes to regulation or policy.
Unfortunately, not changing regulation is very bad news for homeopaths because the consolidated regulations will be very clear in showing that much of homeopathic commercial activity is illegal.
The MHRA note that Neal’s Yard Remedies have written that,
If Section 10 is not changed or amended, and is enforced in the future, access to unlicensed homoeopathic remedies will be restricted to receiving them in person from a specialist pharmacy with expertise in homoeopathy. This would be unworkable as far as patient choice and access is concerned for the 10% of the population that use homoeopathy in the UK
It should be remembered, of course, that Neal’s Yard were exposed by the BBC of selling unregistered products to treat and and prevent malaria, an action that puts lives directly at risk. They issued misleading PR about this until the MHRA stopped them selling. That Neal’s Yard might face further restrictions is not a bad thing.
The MHRA also note that this is not a one-sided argument,
Some anti-homeopathy and science bloggers have responded to the concerns raised by homeopaths. For example, the Quackometer website, which has outspoken views on evidence in healthcare and is very critical of homeopathy, has provided its own analysis of the implications for homeopathy. This can be seen here.
The Nightingale Collaboration recently called for homeopathic remedies to be subject to the same regulation as other products that make health claims:
We do not believe that there is any justification for treating homeopathic products any differently to any other product that makes claims to alleviate, treat or cure any medical condition and find it regrettable that special privileges have been awarded to homeopathic products for thirty years. In the interests of protecting the public from misleading claims and allowing them to make fully informed choices, such privileges should be revoked
Glad I can be of service.
So, can the homeopath’s campaign to change the law be successful?
The MHRA are quite clear,
Directive 2001/83/EC states that no medicinal product can be placed on the market unless it has a marketing authorisation.7 Unauthorised medicines can only be supplied when “formulated in accordance with the specifications of an authorised health-care professional and for use by an individual patient under his direct personal responsibility”.
This may mean that EU law would have to be changed to allow unauthorised homeopathic medicines to be available over the telephone or internet.
The MHRA state that even if a change were possible, it could not be done in any reasonable time frame.
So, that’s it then. Game over.
Homeopathy, as practiced in the UK, is illegal.
And will remain so.
A few registered products might be continue to be sold legally. If this makes a good business. Some more remedies might be registered. But not quickly enough to save their skins.
The blogger Malleus Homeopathicum has been quite right in his analysis of the situation. It is the end of homeopathy in the UK.
Of course, they will struggle on. They will rage and fume and pretend the law does not apply to them. But its not sustainable. And it may get bloody.
Some may try to practice within the law by only selecting one of the few registered products. But to remove most of their remedies is a blow to the very heart of how they define themselves. Homeopaths believe they must select the right remedy. Being unable to legally supply that remedy stops them being homeopaths.
The people responsible are not bloggers like me. It is the homeopaths themselves. They failed to ensure their trade was placed on a firm legal footing. They had thirty years to get this right. Their panic in the last few weeks is no substitute. It is a failure of leadership, diligence and competence.
Just like how they practice medicine. Without diligence and competence.
I shall now find something else to occupy my evenings.