Letters Homoeopathic product licence

MHRA label seems to be illegal

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b2333 (Published 10 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2333
  1. David Colquhoun, research professor1
  1. 1University College London, London WC1E 6BT
  1. d.colquhoun{at}ucl.ac.uk

    The strap line for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is “We enhance and safeguard the health of the public by ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe.”

    Yet the MHRA has made mockery of its own aims by ignoring the bit about “ensuring that medicines work” and allowing Arnica 30C pills to be labelled: “a homoeopathic medicinal product used within the homoeopathic tradition for the symptomatic relief of sprains, muscular aches, and bruising or swelling after contusions.”1

    This label should be illegal anyway because the pills contain no trace of the ingredient on the label, but this deceit has been allowed through a legal loophole for a long time now. If you sold strawberry jam that contained not a trace of strawberry you’d be in trouble.

    But I can see no legal loophole that allows the manufacturers of Arnica 30C to evade the provisions of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. One of the 31 commercial practices which are in all circumstances considered unfair is “falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illnesses, dysfunction, or malformations.”

    The consumer protection laws apply to the way that “the average consumer” will interpret the label. The average consumer is unlikely to know that “used within the homoeopathic tradition” is a form of weasel words that actually means “there isn’t a jot of evidence that the medicine works.”

    Since there is not the slightest evidence that Arnica 30C pills provide symptomatic relief of sprains, etc, the labelling that the MHRA has approved seems to be illegal. The MHRA is not selling anything itself, so I presume that it won’t find itself in court, but anyone who follows its advice could well do so.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2333

    Footnotes

    • Competing interests: None declared.

    References

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