Have some Treatment

Got a broken leg? Hepatitis? Chapped lips? Have you tried some nice medicine?

A pharmacy supplying homeopathic remedies to the Royal Family…, Ainsworths, has been accused of “quackery” for supplying bottles of pills labelled as “Swine Flu Formula” for people suffering from the disease…Ainsworths has been granted a Royal Warrant by the Queen and Prince Charles, who are both said to be supporters of homeopathy…Its treatment is in the form of small “sugar pills”, which dissolve under the tongue. It is sold in £7 bottles, containing 50 pills, which can be bought on the company’s website or over the counter of its central London store. The label on the bottles reads: “SFF (Swine Flu Formula). Treatment: One to be dissolved in the mouth three times a day until improved.”

£7 for fifty little sugar pills! What is the other £6.95 for? Overhead? Malpractice insurance? A day in Brighton?

A Telegraph reporter got a ‘pharmacist’ at Ainsworths to sell him some. She said ‘the pills would help the body “overcome the symptoms” of the virus.’

David Colquhoun and others pointed out that this is dangerous bullshit. Tony Pinkus, the director of Ainsworths, on the other hand, said something rather different.

“At Ainsworths we cater for our many homeopathic customers who have requested a remedy to alleviate the symptoms of swine flu. Most of our customers are people who routinely use homeopathy and find it a satisfactory alternative to allopathic or conventional medicine and are exercising their freedom of choice.”

They ‘cater for’ their customers who have asked for a remedy to alleviate the symptoms of swine flu by giving them a very expensive bottle of sugar pills? That’s a funny kind of ‘catering for.’ At that rate I could go to a restaurant and request a remedy to alleviate my hunger, and be given a brick, or a hank of magenta cashmere, or a hand-painted Breton soup bowl. And the bit about freedom of choice is very patriotic and nice, of course, but it’s a damn cynical way to defend quackery. I’m free to choose a hank of magenta cashmere for breakfast lunch and dinner, too, but if I keep it up I will either starve or die of wool-poisoning, so people who peddle me the stuff are being…unhelpful.

“The remedy is available on request and we do not advertise or encourage people to buy it. We also make it clear that homeopathy can be used in conjunction with conventional medicines and do not feel we are ignoring or going against any governmental guidelines.”

Now that’s interesting. They’re in the business, but they do not advertise or encourage people to buy it. Well why not? Because it doesn’t work? Because it doesn’t do anything? Because it’s just common or garden sugar? And yet they do put a label saying ‘SFF (Swine Flu Formula) Treatment’ on the bottle.

Dr Catherine Zollman, a Fellow of the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health and a GP in Bristol, said she uses homeopathy in her every day care of patients. “Homeopathic treatment can be helpful where conventional medicine doesn’t have much to offer and there are ongoing symptoms in the patient which are causing distress. But it does have to be used with care and good assessment where serious progressive illness or disease has been ruled out.”

Helpful in what sense? Consoling for chronic pain or other misery when ‘conventional’ medicine isn’t working? ‘Helpful’ could mean anything or nothing. But even this Fellow of the prince’s whatsit is careful to warn against using it for anything real and treatable.

I would say more, but mindful of Simon Singh and the British Chiropractic Association, I will let you work it out for yourselves.

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