Photo of a bottle containing a homoeopathic remedy
We need more people to write to their MP's to preserve access to homoeopathic remedies

Homoeopathy under threat – why no change isn’t good enough

6 June, 2012

We must keep the pressure up if we are going to protect our access to homoeopathic remedies.

If you’ve been one of the many people who have taken time to write to your MP about the ongoing threat to homoeopathic remedies in the UK – you have probably received standard replies stating that no changes are being made to the law, including Section 10.

These responses are correct inasmuch as the MHRA’s consolidation process is a routine exercise designed to simplify the law without changing it.

However, these standard responses are misleading because they infer that because the law is not being changed, access to unlicensed homoeopathic remedies (currently the majority available remedies) will continue.

This is not the case.

The need for change

No doubt the MHRA and most MPs would prefer not to make a big deal of this issue. And many may genuinely believe that no change in the Medicine’s Act is good news for those who use and support homoeopathic medicine.

But unfortunately the way Section 10 has been written, no change could end up working to the detriment of homoeopathy. Followed to the letter (rather than the spirit) of the law,  the language of the act, as detailed below, could be used by an increasingly vicious and irrational anti-homoeopathy lobby to see access to unlicensed homoeopathic remedies made virtually impossible.

For clarity – and fairness

The Medicines Act 1968 aims to ensure that medicinal products are produced and supplied in a way which ensures both product quality and patient safety. The MHRA’s recent consultation and ‘consolidation’ aimed to make this vast, confusing, outdated law simpler, clearer and up-to-date.

However, this process has highlighted ways in which the Act is inappropriate when applied to modern use of homoeopathic remedies because:

  • The Act was written with conventional drugs in mind i.e. the regulations it created were designed to protect the public from potentially dangerous substances, and
  • It was written long before the phone, internet and mail order became major supply routes.

Once this review of the Medicines Act has been concluded, if Section 10 remains unchanged, it will clearly state that it is unlawful to supply unlicensed homoeopathic remedies by phone, mail order or via the internet.

As homoeopathic remedies are at high dilution they do not pose the same dangers as conventional drugs, carrying no risk of toxicity.

An amendment to Section 10, exempting homoeopathic remedies from this part of the Act is the only way to ensure continued access to homoeopathic remedies.

So, what’s the next step

For over 18 months, the homoeopathy profession has engaged with the MHRA concerning key issues of access to medicines and the potential negative impact on homoeopaths as well.

Support from consumers is crucial and even if you have already written to your MP once it would be helpful if you could write again to clarify any misunderstanding he or she may have. We believe every voice counts and in addition to the suggestions provided for your original MP letter it is important to understand that:

  • Keeping Section 10 unchanged is not acceptable to patients, practitioners or manufacturers
  • Whilst correspondence from MPs is generally positive, they are often misunderstanding the main points as described above
  • If current proposals by the MHRA are endorsed by Government it could lead to you no longer being able to access homoeopathic remedies by phone, mail order or online.  Homoeopaths would not be able to dispense or prescribe remedies and homoeopathic remedies could only be obtained at the handful of homoeopathic pharmacies in the UK.

Helpful points and guidance

As with the first letter it is not necessary to include all the text and it is important that you personalise your letter.  Don’t forget to include your name, address and postcode on all correspondence to your MP.  If you are emailing, put a subject such as Medicines Act consolidation in the subject field.

In addition to the bullets above, the following could be used to create a follow up letter to your MP:

  • I continue to be deeply concerned that the draft proposal set out by the MHRA as part of its consolidation and review of the Medicines Act 1968 could have a significant impact on the access to homoeopathic remedies in the UK.
  • If Section 10 is not changed or amended, and is enforced in the future, access to unlicensed homoeopathic remedies will be restricted to receiving them in person from a specialist pharmacy with expertise in homoeopathy.  This would be unworkable as far as patient choice and access is concerned for the 10% of the population that use homoeopathy in the UK.
  • Whilst this consolidation could be classed as a routine review/consultation of the law and would leave policy unaltered, this is precisely the problem.  By not amending Section 10 it may create difficulties with future access to homoeopathic remedies.
  • The wording of the Medicines Act of 1968 does not adequately cover the evolving practice of homoeopathy in the UK.  For the majority of homoeopathic users, access to homoeopathic remedies is only possible through the Internet or mail order.  The profession needs clarity in the language of the Medicines Act that will confirm in law access to the current supply routes for unlicensed homoeopathic remedies.
  • This current issue is complex and has become burdened with misunderstanding.  I am therefore asking you to raise the issue with an appropriate minister as soon as possible.
  • There could be significant economic ramifications if Section 10 of the Medicines Act is not changed as it will increase pressures on regulatory bodies and NHS services, as well as decreasing the commerce in the homoeopathic sector at a time when the UK and Europe is in dire need of economic growth.

A policy of ‘no change’ could have serious consequences for millions of patients in the UK who use homoeopathy, and for over 2,000 practising homoeopaths.  A policy of ‘no change’ will also compromise patient choice.

While there is still time to act, let’s act as one voice.