Spain wages war on dubious homeopathy meds

Spain’s Health Ministry has blacklisted thousands of alternative medicine products in a bid to crack down on phony ailments and health treatments it considers to have “no scientific basis”.

Spain wages war on dubious homeopathy meds
Photos: AFP

If you’re a big believer in homeopathic treatments, Spain is no longer the place with the biggest range of remedies that can be bought over the counter. 

The country’s Ministry of Health has released a list of only 2,008 homeopathic products whose manufacturers will have to apply for an official government license for if they wish to continue selling them.

The homeopathic producers on the list have until April 2019 to prove that their remedies actually work, which may very well slash homeopathic products in Spain to the bare minimum.

The rest of the more than 12,000 homeopathic ‘meds’ circulating around Spain for the past few years will no longer have the right to be sold in Spain nor the right to apply for the license.

It’s the latest blow for Spain’s homeopathy industry, once worth an estimated €100 million but which has seen a drop in public trust and therefore sales of around 30 percent in the last five years.

Considered by most scientists and medical professionals as a pseudoscience, homeopathy is an alternative medicine dating back to 1796 which claims that what causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people can cure similar symptoms in ill people.

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Big German and French pharma companies have kept a fairly tight grip on the industries in their home countries, whereas the more scrupulous governments of Spain and Great Britain in 2017 voted to have their health ministries exert more control over an industry they considered dubious.

Spain’s Health Ministry stopped allowing homoepathy treatments from being prescribed as part of people’s social security benefits, along with acupuncture, herbal medicine and body-based practices such as osteopathy, shiatsu or aromatherapy.

This latest 2018 ruling means that the number of homeopathic products available in Spanish chemists and health shops is set to shrink even further.

“Homeopathy is an alternative therapy that has not shown any scientific evidence that it works” Spanish Minister of Health Maria Luisa Carcedo is quoted as saying in La Vanguardia in response to the homeopathic blacklist.

“I’m committed to combatting all forms of pseudoscience:”

READ ALSO: Top Spanish uni scraps homeopathy – because it's nonsense


Spain wants to ban acupuncture and homeopathy

The Spanish government declared war on alternative medicine like acupuncture or homeopathy Wednesday, announcing it plans to eliminate from health centres what it considers a health risk.

Spain wants to ban acupuncture and homeopathy
File photo of a practitioner giving an acupuncture treatment. Photo: AFP

The plan, unveiled by the science and health ministers, aims to avoid the “potential harmful effects” of these practices “when they are used as an alternative or a complement to treatment” which itself is based on “proof and scientific rigour,” the government said in a statement.

It did not detail what it included as alternative medicine, but gave the examples of acupuncture and homeopathy.   

“Many people still believe that some treatments work despite there being no scientific proof available,” it read.

According to a 2016 poll, “59.8 percent believe that acupuncture is of therapeutic use and 52.7 percent think that homeopathic products work,” the plan read.


Homeopathic solutions being prepared. Photo: AFP

The government said it wants to “eliminate” alternative medicine from health centres where all treatment must be given by “recognised” professionals.   

The plan also wants to avoid alternative medicine being taught in Spanish universities by developing alliances with deans, chancellors or Spanish regional authorities to not give out diplomas linked to these practices.

Madrid also wants to modify legislation to fight “false advertising” with regard to alternative medicine online.

The issue has taken centre stage in Spain recently, with health and science professionals pressuring the health ministry to take action after several high-profile deaths.   

One such case, as reported by Spain's Association to Protect Patients against Pseudo-scientific Therapies, involved 21-year-old Mario Rodriguez who died after dropping his hospital treatment for leukemia in favour of a supposed naturopath who said he could cure cancer with vitamins.

“Dad, I made a mistake,” his father Julian Rodriguez quoted him as saying on his deathbed.

The association has a long list of treatment it considers alternative medicine, which includes aromatherapy, acupuncture — in use in China for centuries — and even psychoanalysis as created by Sigmund Freud.

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