The 10:23 campaign, organised by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, “aims to raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy.” The campaigners have penned an open letter to Alliance Boots in which they point out that “in evidence given recently to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, [Boots] admitted that [they] do not believe homeopathy to be efficacious.” This prompted some thoughts around informed consent and medical treatments.
Boots sell homeopathic remedies, one example of which is their “Bellandonna 30c Pillules.” At 30C, it is unlikely that there will be any molecules of the supposed active ingredient actually present in the final product.
If Boots sell homeopathic remedies because they are popular rather than because there is evidence that they work, one could argue that this simply reflects “customer choice.”
However, when that customer is a patient seeking medical treatment for an ailment there is an argument that we should be considering “informed consent” rather than “customer choice.” It would certainly be more ethical. Here’s how I put my argument when I wrote to Boots:
During the Commons Science and Technology Committee hearing last year, the representative for Boots told the committee that there was no medical evidence that homeopathic pills work. He also made reference to “consumer demand.”
I note that you sell on your website “Bellandonna 30c Pillules” and would like to ask some questions about this product.
30C homeopathic remedies have been diluted to the point where it is unlikely that they will contain a single molecule of the purported “active ingredient.” Nor is there good evidence that such dilute remedies are efficacious.
If we accept that patients should give informed consent for medical treatment, would it not be ethical and appropriate for Boots to properly inform their customers of the state of the evidence regarding such dilute remedies, and of the nature of the product (i.e., that there is actually “nothing in it”)?
Do Boots currently inform their customers of the nature of these remedies and the lack of evidence of efficacy?
I will post below my comments on any response I receive from Boots. I hope they will do their bit to “raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy” by informing their customers of the nature of homeopathic remedies and the lack of evidence for their use.
Update, 25th January
Boots have now sent a reply to my email:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us about the sale of Homeopathic products in our stores.
At Boots we take our responsibilities as the leading Pharmacy-led Health & Beauty retailer in the UK very seriously and as part of this we pride ourselves on being able to offer all of our customers a choice of products that support them in their day-to-day lives. We know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want.
We can confirm that Boots Belladonna 30c Pillules is a licensed homeopathic product without approved therapeutic indications. The pack is labelled in accordance with the requirements placed upon the marketing authorisation holder, Nelsons, by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. If you would like to contact the marketing authorisation holder to discuss the formulation of this product and the manufacturing process in more detail they are contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Pharmacists are trained healthcare professionals and are on hand to offer advice on the safe use of complementary medicines. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain issues guidance to pharmacists on the correct selling of homoeopathy, which our pharmacists adhere to.
I would like to conclude by confirming that Boots support the call for scientific research and evidence gathering on the efficacy of homoeopathic medicines as this would help our patients and customers make better informed choices about using homoeopathic medicines.
Boots Customer Care
Other Blogs About 10:23
Crispian Jago with another Ladybird book. Guest blog on Lay Science: Dr Kendall’s Patent Homeopathic Remedies. Crispian Jago guest blogging on Lay Science: here. The Not So Friendly Humanist. Phil Plait on the Bad Astronomy blog. The …and your electron microscope blog has tagged these posts with 1023. One more from me here: homeopathic confusion.