Early last year I blogged about the misleading statements made by some MEPs in trying to water down EU proposals for the regulation of the vitamin pill industry. It appeared that these MEPs had been influenced by the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), then collaborating with the vitamin pill salesman and notorious AIDS denialist Matthias Rath whose activities in South Africa implicated him in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. One of these MEPs was Marian Harkin, an Irish independent MEP, who I wrote to at the time expressing my concerns over the ANH and her position on supplementation (see letter below the fold). Ms Harkin, in contrast to most other MEPs contacted, did not respond. Now it seems Ms Harkin is supporting homeopathy and has fallen for the big pharma conspiracy line as peddled by homeopaths and the ANH (who incidentally have forbidden their staff from replying to my emails).
In a report written for the EU Observer it is claimed that the homeopathic lobby are trying to influence the EU on the regulation of alternative medicine.
Representatives of the industry, practitioners and patients that use homeopathic products are to hold an EU Homeopathy Day in the European Parliament on 23 March as the kick-off for a new effort to win EU-level alternative-medicine-friendly legislation.
EU Homeopathy day is an event organised by the European Coalition on Homeopathic and Anthroposophic Medicinal Products (Echamp), a lobby group composed of manufacturers of homeopathic products and their supporters.
The report also carries statements from Andy Lewis of the Quackometer and Ms Harkin.
Andy Lewis, the proprietor of the Quackometer website, which debunks quack medicine on the internet, said that the new campaign of European homeopathy lobby was at odds with the British parliament’s enquiry.
“The MPs concluded, after a very detailed review of the evidence, that homeopathy was scientifically implausible and could not be shown to be effective,” said Mr Lewis, who was also one of the organisers of a series of ‘homeopathy overdose’ demonstrations outside pharmacists across the UK in January in which sceptics swallowed entire bottles of homeopathy sugar pills. “The recommendation was that homeopathy should not be publicly funded and that medicines labeling regulations should not allow it to make unfounded claims. “
“The EU would be failing its citizens, and pandering to business interests, if it allowed homeopathy sugar pill manufacturers to make misleading claims about this discredited 18th Century quackery,” he added.
Ms Harkin, for her part, is familiar with such criticism, but dismisses it as in the service of Big Pharma: “There are those that believe that only those medicines prescribed by doctors and manufactured by Pfizer will make you well, but a lot of ordinary people do not subscribe to that view.”
“[The sceptics] are saying medicines must be judged by one critierion [sic] only, that it satisfies a scientific equation. Whereas there are many standards by which medicines should be judged,” she said.
“The agenda is to say that science has the answer to everything. Well, they should have learnt by now that it hasn’t.”
It appears that Ms Harkin did not heed my warnings and has now fallen for the conspiracy theories of the more obsessive supporters of homeopathy and clearly does not see the irony of condemning Big Pharma, who for the most part rely on scientific evidence, while shilling for Big Quacka, who don’t. This is unfortunate for the voters of Ireland North and West as well as those that care for the proper scrutiny of alternative therapies. Ms Harkin is supposedly representing the interests of the former and acting against those of the latter in the European Parliament. Ms Harkin would be well advised to read the recent Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy (pdf) which as good a discussion of the scientific evidence and policy implications of homeopathy as she’s ever likely to read.
I will be contacting Ms Harkin to remind her that while science does not have an answer to everything it is pretty good at evaluating the claims of alternative medicine, and these have been found wanting. I will also send her a copy of the report.
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