One of the best ways I know is to follow the advice of a homeopath. But one such source has been at least partly spiked, the infamous Neal’s Yard Remedies. Many of you will know about the BBC South West TV sting, which resulted in embarrassing footage of an interview and the withdrawal of the product Malaria Officinalis from the market. I can do no better than to refer you to the excellent Quackometer for the details of the story, although I can’t resist reproducing here the following weasel words from Neal’s Yard:
Neal’s Yard Remedies has not advertised or sold the remedy, Malaria Officinalis 30c, as a prevention for Malaria. It has been supplied on request by practitioners working in Neal’s Yard Remedies stores, and in fact, practitioners have been trained to always explain that the remedy should not be considered as a guarantee of prevention of malaria. The name of the remedy is based on its Latin name and not on its claim to cure or prevent an ailment.
This actually isn’t true, they supplied it to various people who walked into the shop. Anyway, my main purpose here is to enlarge on the role of our esteemed guardian of public health the MHRA. I emailed the MHRA press office to ask about action it had taken. You can read the news release about the episode here. I got a reply quite quickly:
No further action is planned against Neal’s Yard in respect of the homoeopathic malaria product as the product was removed immediately from the market place. The MHRA has no powers to levy fines. The decision on whether or not to pursue a case in the criminal courts would depend on a number of factors including the nature and severity of the offence and the amount of harm the product had caused.
This seemed a bit lenient to me, so I pointed out these key parts of their own news release:
This product was clearly intended to be viewed as a treatment or preventive for malaria, which is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. We regard the promotion of an unauthorised, self-medicating product for such a serious condition to be potentially harmful to public health and misleading.……it was an offence to sell, supply or to advertise this product which had not been authorised.
Regulatory action taken by the MHRA can be in various forms. In this particular case we have taken formal regulatory action to remove a product from the marketplace thereby protecting public health. As the company has complied further action at this point of time does not seem appropriate. Not every breach of medicines legislation results in criminal prosecution particularly where immediate compliance has been achieved.