It should be illegal to pretend that sugar pills or water are medicine. Happily, it turns out, it is! In a great Guardian piece yesterday - Homeopaths offer to rebrand products as 'confectionery' - "The Lay Scientist" Martin Robbins reports that:
Under current UK law*, it is an offence for a lay homeopath to supply or sell unlicensed homeopathic medicines for which they do not hold a certificate of registration from the MHRA. Unlicensed remedies can only supplied by those with prescribing rights - medical doctors or registered pharmacists - and then only after a face-to-face consultation with the patient. Since very few homeopathic products are licensed, this means a huge swathe of Big Sugar's products are, in theory at least, not legal.Furthermore, under the Human Medical Regulations Act, there is an obligation to enforce this law if a complaint is made - and, thanks to Simon Singh and friends, complaints are being made! It's still not clear to me how much actual fallout from this there will be but it's definitely a step in the right direction.
*The Medicines (Homoeopathic Medicinal Products for Human Use) Regulations 1994, as amended in 2005.
Martin Robbins ends his piece with this great line:
"I've got no problem with people buying and selling homeopathic remedies for their aches and sniffles. Just don't pretend it's a real medicine, and don't persuade people it can treat dangerous diseases. Is that really so much to ask?"I hope not, Martin. I really hope not.
(And in case you are under the impression that Homeopathy might be effective, read the House of Commons Select Committee (Science and Technology Committee) Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy.)
[Edit: I was obviously having a brain-dead moment when writing this and erroneously called Martin Robbins, Tim. Doh! Sorry, Martin.]