Thursday, March 19, 2015

The rubber stamp

I read a very sad article today about the Health Canada process for approving medicine.  A show called Marketplace made up a new medicine called Nighton (anagram for nothing) which had no active ingredient.  They sent in some photocopies of old texts and got it approved for sale in Canada.  No testing of efficacy or indeed any kind of plausible pretext of how their product even could be effective was necessary.

This sort of thing drives me up the wall.  Somehow the government regulatory body has been tricked into thinking that their job is to rubber stamp anything that comes across their desk because not approving it risks making somebody upset.  People out there want their sugar pills dammit, and they want them stocked right next to the medicine instead of in the candy aisle where they belong!  It isn't simply about proving that a product doesn't kill people because that isn't good enough.  All you accomplish by letting 'harmless' products through the process is to have people take those products instead of actual medicine and that is demonstrably harmful.  Products that get regulatory approval should have to prove both efficacy and lack of harm.

Not to say we should outlaw homeopathic remedies.  They are useless but if people want to make them they should be allowed to do so.  However, they absolutely should not be regulated as medicine nor given any sort of government approval any more than one teaspoon of castor oil at bedtime should be.  You want to take your fancy placebo?  Fine!  But it should not be sold in the drugstore next to the stuff that actually works and the government should have no part in convincing people that it is a valid alternative.  Let us create an environment where a clueless person looking for medicine can easily figure out what stuff has been found to work and which stuff is snake oil.


  1. I saw some of the TV episode the other day. It's not about approving medicine... it's about the approval of natural remedies. And those should definitely be regulated as medicine. That's the point, they're not... they're allowed to make their claims and get their government approval number with no proof, quite probably because not many people are willing to stand up against tradition cures or are afraid that they'll be shamed as being against people's choice. Medicine has to have standards... if this stuff had to live up to those same standards, homeopathy would rightfully be outlawed, because it is entirely crap (and dangerous crap too... don't kid yourself, these people are in direct competition with vaccines, and are fueling the fire of the anti-vax movement for all it's worth, people are suffering and dying from homeopathy).

  2. I think this is just a wording issue. I think if we are going to regulate a thing purporting to be medicine, it ought to have the same standards as real medicines do. We agree on that. Natural remedies as a category is just a giant mess and I don't think it is useful to sign off on them at all. If it needs regulation, it ought to be strongly regulated.