Challenging misleading healthcare claims

Homeopathic 'vaccines'

Yet another BBC investigation exposes the dangerous advice of homeopaths. When will the regulators take action to protect the public?

injection

BBC One Inside Out South West reporter Sam Smith was concerned at claims being made by homeopaths about vaccines.

A researcher, posing as a mother of an unvaccinated child, emailed one of the most prominent homeopathic pharmacies, Ainsworths, and got a reply from Tony Pinkus, their Superintendent Pharmacist, who is registered as a pharmacist with the General Pharmaceutical Council.

When asked if there was an alternative to the whooping cough (Pertussis) vaccine, his reply was appalling.

Pinkus stated:

Whereas I have been dispensing homoeopathic Pertussin 30c for 30 years for this purpose - and made sure I gave it to my own children, I am unable to make a claim for its success as there have been no successful trials reported.

However, that did not prevent him suggesting several different homeopathic products to the researcher, including homeopathic Pertussin 30c, as a preventative. These products were, of course, all available online from his website.

As a result of the investigation, to be broadcast on BBC One Inside Out South West this evening at 19:30, the medicines regulator, the MHRA, have told Ainsworths — and Helios, who advertised similar 'vaccines' — to remove them from their website. It appears they have now done that.

But this isn't the first time Pinkus has been caught out by the BBC.

In 2011, Newsnight reported on their investigation into Ainsworths suggesting sugar pills for malaria prevention.

We won our Advertising Standards Authority complaint about the leaflet that BBC reporter Pallab Ghosh was given by Ainsworths on all but one point, but I also reported Pinkus to his statutory regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council. As the BBC report on this latest investigations said:

The General Pharmaceutical Council also investigated but let him off saying he had taken "remedial action".

It seems that remedial action wasn't sufficient to protect the public from misleading — and possibly downright dangerous — advice.

Way back in September 2011, we complained about the unlicensed products Ainsworths were selling:

This included:

  • 33 homeopathic products described as vaccines;
  • One homeopathic product labelled as Cancer Serum – Glyoxilide;
  • Several homeopathic products described using the names of conventional medicines, usually trade marked;
  • Many homeopathic products that included the names of medical conditions or diseases.

They also had a 'remedy finder' that linked symptoms to some of their homeopathic products; something we believe is not permitted even for homeopathic products registered with the medicines regulator under their HR scheme.

But Ainsworths were also advertising some 2,342 homeopathic products that appeared to be unlicensed and unregistered. We complained that the advertising, supply or sale of these was not permitted under the medicines regulations.

Sixteen months later, we are still waiting for a substantive response from the MHRA and these products are still being advertised.

It cannot be right that the only time a regulator acts to protect the public is when serious failings of regulation are highlighted by BBC investigations.

It is time for the MHRA to grasp the nettle and fully and properly enforce the regulations that say it is not permitted to sell, supply or even advertise unlicensed homeopathic medicines to the general public — and that includes lay homeopaths.

We'll keep you informed…

14 January 2013

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