Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Water Torture: Anxious not to be left in the dust by the Bush administration when it comes to demonstrating utter contempt for science, the British government—via the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency—is to allow the makers of homeopathic “remedies” to make medical claims about their products.

There will, of course, be no process of clinical trials, or indeed any requirement of scientific evidence, before these claims can be made. That’s because there is no way to distinguish, using any kind of scientific test, between a homeopathic “remedy” and a bottle of Evian—or indeed, the stuff that comes out of your tap. In short, there is no scientific evidence.

The question now is why anyone in the U.K. would bother to market ordinary bottled water as water. Presumably, under the new regulations, you could take your Evian and re-label it a homeopathic cure for cancer and be entirely within the law.

I suppose proponents of homeopathy could argue that since they are giving their customers a harmless placebo—something they drink every day without even thinking about it—there’s no risk, and so no need for clinical trials, etc. But medical professionals are not so sure. Michael Baum, emeritus professor of surgery at University College London tells The Guardian: “This is like licensing a witches’ brew as a medicine so long as the bat wings are sterile.”

Others worry that the gullible will be less likely to seek medical treatment for health problems if they believe homeopathic remedies are working—although why we would want those people to continue to pollute the gene pool is unclear.

The Guardian’s excellent Ben Goldacre, who writes the paper’s Bad Science column, has a wonderful take on the whole subject here and here.


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