Life continues to be stranger than any fiction you could get a worthwhile publisher to accept. The delusional nutters extraordinaire that froth impotently at reality under the collective moniker of H:MC21 are at it again. You see, they get their arses kicked on a regular basis by the Advertising Standards Authority, a body which was set up to be “the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media”, funded “by advertisers through an arm’s length arrangement that guarantees the ASA’s independence”. Bear this in mind; it’s quite important. WTFometers at the ready? Let’s go.
H:MC21 are notorious for making outlandish, sometimes potentially dangerous, claims for the festering relict of 18th century ignorance that is homeopathy. Their name stands for “Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century”, which only gets past the ASA – or indeed any organisation anywhere in the world charged with ensuring advertising claims comply with some variant on “legal, decent honest and truthful” – by a legal loophole that homeopaths have lobbied shamelessly for themselves over the years. Homeopathy is not medicine, was never medicine, can never be medicine. At best, it’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, as Julie Andrews once warbled. At worst, it’s water and sugar for real ailments: child abuse, animal abuse and manslaughter. Or, in some cases where the homeopath has tried to treat his or her own major illness with homeopathy: Suicide by Extreme Fuckwittery.
Anyway. H:MC21. They like to portray themselves as some kind of Saviour of Humanity, battling against insuperable odds to bring Truth, Freedom and – wait for it – Knowledge to the masses:
H:MC21 is a charity established to counter the unfounded propaganda against homeopathy by informing the public of the facts about homeopathy and its historical and scientific relationship to orthodox medicine.
It will do this through research, publication and campaigning.
I’ll give them this: they publish (leaflets) and campaign quite a bit. Politics? Yes. Testimonials? Yes. Dismayed rants at health authorities defunding little sugar pills? Oh yes. Denigrating anybody who points out that there is neither any evidence that homeopathy works, nor any likelihood that it ever will? All over the bloody place. Actual research? Square root of fuck all diluted to 200C (insert usual tired old joke about how the less evidence homeopaths present, the more overwhelming it is, if you must). However, given how copiously they shit on real research (the RCT may not be perfect, but it’s far and away the best method for researching drug effectiveness and safety), it would be so glaringly hypocritical of them to actually present any real science themselves that even other homeopaths might spot that as an example of genuine cognitive dissidence.
So, what are these reality-challenged dickwits moaning about now? Well, they seem unhappy to have been caught out making illegal claims on their website and/or pamphlets, and not for the first time – or even the second. So they’ve decided to go picket the ASA, the watchdog set up to ensure that advertising in the UK is “legal, decent, honest and truthful”. I’ll leave it to you to work out which parts of that H:MC21 regularly infringes.
We believe that the H:MC21 case provides categorical evidence that the ASA is not abiding by the requirement to base its decisions on “the available scientific knowledge” (CAP Code 12.1), but is making decisions on the basis of an ideological position that the only valid evidence in medicine is evidence of efficacy derived from randomised controlled trials (RCTs). This position is not only in contradiction to scientific knowledge, in contradiction to the paradigm of evidence based medicine (EBM) and in contradiction to good medical practice, but its endorsement is hazardous to public health.
This from a bunch of loons who do not, at any point, provide the slightest shred of evidence that their claims conform to the legal requirement of – I’ll repeat this again – “Legal, decent, honest and truthful”. They do provide lots of gibberish on miasms and the mythical vital force though. It will be interesting to see how they provide solid evidence that RCTs are unscientific and contrary to EBM as well as good medical practice. The SO has unfortunately forbidden popcorn over the next few months for reasons of excessive tum on my part, but I look forward to the live-tweeting of this loonfest if ever it gets to a court of law.
Furthermore, we believe that the investigation provides categorical evidence that the ASA regards unsupported opinions which accord with its ideological position to be of greater weight than demonstrable facts which do not.
“Demonstrable facts” – comedy gold, I tell you. They can believe what they like, but they’d have more luck buying fried pork wings in barbecue sauce from the local supermarket than providing the least evidence for that claim. It gets better – or worse. Whatever.
H:MC21 is also profoundly concerned at the impact the ASA can have on patient choice. During the last two-and-a-half years the ASA has increased the scope of its work to include information published on websites. Interest groups opposed to homeopathy and other CAM therapies have seized on this as an opportunity to restrict and even deny the public access to information about alternatives to conventional medicine by making complaints about advertisements and websites to the ASA.
Reading between the lines, what these morons are saying – in almost as many words – is: “We want to be able to say what we want to people with no fear of the consequences because otherwise they won’t buy anything from us”. Which, funnily enough, is exactly what the ASA was set up to put a stop to. There is, of course, an alternative to conventional medicine. It’s called “no medicine at all”. There is no reason why the taxpayer should fund fake treatments with no proven benefits.
In this context, it is essential that the ASA should not be allowed to simply adopt the ideological position of these interest groups, but should base its decisions on “the available scientific knowledge”.
This is too fucking delicious for words. Available scientific knowledge says that homeopathy is complete bollocks, closer to magic than anything else. Now then, want to know why they’ve decided to start a war against the ASA? The next sentence gives it away: they are shitting themselves.
We are calling these protests at this time because the ASA’s investigation of an H:MC21 advert over the last two-and-a-half years is about to reach its conclusion, and we believe we must challenge the likely decision as powerfully as possible in order to prevent it being used by the ASA as a precedent for deciding future cases. We know that the ASA has already used as a precedent a case in which they made a wrong decision.
Yes, you read that right: they’re protesting against a decision they haven’t been notified of yet.
H:MC21 trustees feel so strongly about this issue that they are taking legal advice on challenging the ASA decision at a judicial review.
I wonder what the legal advice will be? Probably “Don’t be so fucking stupid, you’ve haven’t a leg to stand on” if they get a reputable barrister. Otherwise it would boil down to: “Pay me lots of money and we’ll sue. You’ll lose anyway, but I fancy buying myself a flat in a fancy ski resort”. Such is the power of self-delusion that they probably will keep paying for barristers’ opinions until they get one prepared to say the latter.
In the meantime, if you want to see these dangers to public health and finance in the (probably) unvaccinated flesh, the programme for the upcoming show is:
a protest outside the Advertising Standards Authority, Mid City Place,
71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6QT from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m
a lobby of Parliament from 2.30 to 4.30 p.m.
With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to recognise professional clowns like David “Phases of the Moon” Tredinnick MP during the afternoon display of Synchronised Stupidity.
Now then, as part of this determined assault against the impregnable fortress of reality, our heroes researched a dictionary and published this little gem of a letter to send to your local MP. I feel it could be improved on. Here is my suggested version.
Dear [MP’s name]
I am a supporter of the lobby group Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, which is dedicated to lying to people about homeopathy.
Since the end of 2010 it has been dealing with an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority and I am concerned at the approach the ASA has taken in this case, since I believe that it is basing its decisions on “the available scientific knowledge” (CAP Code 12.1). Furthermore, I consider the ASA’s approach to be dangerous to the wealth of homeopaths.
For example, the ASA is claiming that the only reliable information is from randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and 100% of RCTs of homeopathy show it to be no better than placebo. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) operates a ‘yellow card scheme’ to monitor problems with drugs, precisely because RCTs are not 100% reliable and the effects of drugs in the real world may be very different. This safeguard does not even exist for homeopathy.
The ASA is also claiming that testimonials are not valid, but that is all we have for the efficacity of homeopathy. We like to claim that it’s the same thing as the supposed 85% of the information required for diagnosis that comes from the patient’s report about their symptoms. Again, the MHRA collects Yellow Card reports from anyone from the UK, not just doctors, but also patients, because “these are used to identify side effects and other problems which might not have been known about before. If a new side effect is found, the MHRA will review the way that the medicine can be used, and the warnings that are given to people taking it to minimise risk and maximise benefit to the patient.” This is a very important issue, as people can die because they are not listened to when describing their symptoms. Again, this does not exist among homeopaths.
There is also the issue of patient choice. If members of the public are denied access to misinformation about homeopathy’s effectiveness in adverts because the ASA will only permit the use of scientific evidence of efficacy, then homeopaths are being denied the right to lead patients into making uninformed decisions about their own healthcare.
I would like to see this issue raised in Parliament, since no private company set up to regulate advertising should have the power to tell us we cannot promote placebos as a whole sector of medicine. If it proves necessary, H:MC21 would like to see an investigation into the conduct of the ASA on this issue, not least because it appears to be part of a systematic campaign to stifle and eliminate the practice of mis-selling homeopathy through making fantastical claims in the UK
H:MC21 has called a protest outside the ASA and a lobby of Parliament on Tuesday 25 June. I would like to make an appointment to meet you and tell you and your advisors porkies on behalf of H:MC21.
- Homeopathic rebunking: debunked (chapmancentral.co.uk)