So Avaaz, a left-leaning organisation that helps aggregate causes and rally people to them, has come out against the EU directive designed to strengthen restrictions against peddling alternative medicines. How depressing. I complained, and I guess plenty of others did, because Avaaz put out this release: http://www.avaaz.org/en/eu_herbal_response_to_concerns
I’m not buying it.
To illustrate just how I’m not buying it, I thought I’d respond below. Avaaz are in italic, and I’m not.
Thanks for raising your concerns about the EU herbals campaign. We had a long discussion of this issue on our team, considering many possible objections. But we spoke with key officials, politicians and professionals involved
and feel confident that we’ve taken the right position.
That must be a nice feeling.
For clarification purposes, at no stage of this campaign, has Avaaz implied that it is against regulations for herbal products, or that these products are all effective.
So if your argument isn’t based on the efficacy of alternative & herbal ‘medicines’, then …?
Certainly, there have been a few cases of scams involving herbal medicines, and instances where misapplication of herbal medicines have harmed people.
Voluminous examples of those ‘few cases’ here: http://whatstheharm.net/
The Directive creates a situation in which producers of herbal and other traditional remedies have to bear enormous costs, years of effort and a lengthy review process to get their products on the market. The costs of tests and submission have been estimated at €100,000 per product, and many manufacturers have hundreds of products.
Yes! They’re selling what are supposed to be medicines! Y’know, pharmacologically active substances that actual human beings are supposed to be taking! That should be tested exhaustively, and expensively, before they go anywhere near human beings! (Unless you’re suggesting that ‘alternative’ medicine should be exempted from such considerations because they’re usually not pharmacologically active …?)
Large firms may have the resources to jump through these hoops, but the small scale producers that account for much of the herbal medicine industry do not.
So they get a free pass to put out untested, unvalidated drugs for humans to take? Are you suggesting a “poor-man’s defence” for medical malpractice suits?
And are you really suggesting that all these homely herbal remedies you’re buying haven’t got huge corporations behind them? Really? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31188920/ns/health-alternative_medicine/
In addition, the rules dictate that traditional herbal medicines cannot be licensed unless they have been in use for 30 years, 15 of which in the EU. But many traditional medicines sold in the EU market were registered as “dietary supplements” rather than drugs so companies cannot provide valid evidence to prove the safety and efficacy of their medicinal products in the EU market.
They have been sold as supplements precisely because if they claimed to be drugs (that is, medically effective), their manufacturers and marketers would be taken to court, because they’d be making specific claims that could be proven false. Or, more likely, they would never get to market, because they’d never pass a round of blinded, rigorous scientific studies. To get around spending the sort of money that is required to pass a drug for human consumption, they go with nice, non-specific claims like “this supplements a healthy diet”, or “this supports a healthy immune system”. And now they complain when their own weasel words are held against them? You really want to trust these shysters with your bio-chemistry?
You said yourself, at the beginning of the article, that you wanted to distance yourself from any claim that “that these products are all effective”! So … you don’t want to hold them to *any* standard of proof? Hmm? People’s champion? Hmm?
The application of this directive varies across the EU, but in several countries fewer than 5 herbal products have been registered during the 7 year period allowed by the EC. This means that hundreds of herbal products can be taken off the shelves any day now.
Excellent — another blow against charlatanism is struck!
(Having a strange moment of realisation — one of my favourite left-wing organisations is arguing in favour of … Deregulation! Are these the end times?)
Such products aren’t for everyone, but surveys show that 25% of EU citizens have used herbal products.
So what, apparently half of Britons don’t believe in evolution: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/01/evolution-darwin-survey-creationism
Mass ignorance is no support of any argument, and certainly not something to be revelled in.
This means that alternative, Chinese, and other Asian medicine with hundreds of years of use, now cannot be sold as medicines.
Because they’re not! They have zip efficacy! Study after study after study shows them doing nothing! No statistical difference from placebo effects! That means they’re nonsense! They are a con!
Many Europeans will still want to get hold of herbal remedies for themselves and their families, and may have to buy them as food supplements, or from the internet, if they can’t find them in pharmacies.
But they won’t be getting them with the implicit approval of the government and scientific bodies that are supposed to be protecting them from charlatans and scam artists. Which means that those agencies will be doing their jobs better. Which is better for those citizens, as they’re not being misinformed.
That will be less safe, as they won’t be able to get advice on dosage and possible side effects when mixed with other medicines.
I’m not less safe for putting a toad on my head to cure the flu without my Doctor’s advice on how long I should do it for. However long I do it for, it is ineffective, so I am less safe because I should be spending my time and resources seeking real medical treatment. And in the few cases where maybe a herb actually has a pharmacologically active agent, I have no way of knowing how much I’m getting (it’s not refined & measured like real medicine), and the chances are its interactions with my body and any other medicines I may be taking having been properly studied are slim. And my doctor can’t offer any real advice under those conditions, either, other than “don’t take the stuff”.
These regulations reduce consumer choice, while failing to bring in a comprehensive and effective safety regime, so we’ve called on the EU to amend the directive.
Like the laws against pyramid schemes reduce the consumer’s choice to be ripped off. In this case, the consumer’s choice is between medicine that science has proven effective, or a mass of placebos with a vanishingly sparse scattering of half-understood, thus potentially dangerous, agents. What choice is this? Do you really suggest that a government would be anything but remiss to outlaw the marketing of un- and dis-proven remedies? This IS the (increasingly) effective safety regime!
Our team considered all sides of this argument and spoke to the relevant officials and activists.
Who? And not good enough. You haven’t demonstrated any real consideration.
When polled, the Avaaz community gave an overwhelmingly positive response.
So what? If they gave an overwhelmingly positive response to flat earthism, or immigrant detention camps would you then mindlessly change your position in support of those? No, you’d take a principled stand on what you believed was right, and fight that corner. Well, in this instance, you’ve taken a misguided stance *against* what is right, and the rightness of the argument against you is proven in hundreds upon hundreds of rigorous, scientific studies!
You may not agree with this particular campaign, but we hope this response alleviates some of your concerns, and that you’ll continue to support Avaaz in future.
I most certainly don’t, it most certainly doesn’t, and as for the last — for now, I still trust your intentions, but my respect for your intelligence and due diligence has taken a nosedive. You are an important and influential voice to us on the left, and you have a massive responsibility to be properly informed of the issues you address. You have just failed that responsibility. Big time.