MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The ‘Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung’, a paper for German pharmacists, rarely is the most humorous of publications. However, recently they reported on a battle between the EU and the European producers of homeopathic remedies – a battle over mercury which has, I think, hints of Monty Python and the Flying Circus.

The EU already has strict regulations on the use of mercury, for obvious reasons, they apply particularly to medicines. The law in this area is now 8 years old and is about to be replaced by a new one which is even stricter. A draft has been recently published here.

The new law would prohibit all mercury in medicinal products, except for some used in dentistry. For the homeopathic and anthroposophic manufacturers, this is not good news because they have many remedies on the market that have the word ‘mercury’ on the label. Consequently, they fear that the sale of these products might be impeded or even become impossible in the EU.

„Quecksilber und Quecksilberverbindungen stellen für manche homöopathische und andere traditionelle Arzneimittel einen unverzichtbaren Bestandteil dar“ (Mercury and mercury compounds are an essential ingredient of some homeopathic and other traditional medicines) .. “Es steht keine Quecksilber-freie Alternative zur Verfügung, die als aktiver Bestandteil in der Therapie mit homöopathischen oder anderen traditionellen Arzneimitteln verwendet werden könnte“ (There is no mercury-free alternative that could be used in these medications”) wrote the Dachverband der Arzneimittelhersteller im Bereich der Selbstmedikation (AESGP) (a lobby group of the homeopathic manufacturers) in a comment adding that „Diese Produkte sind seit Dekaden auf dem europäischen Markt und gehören zum Arzneimittel-Werkzeugkoffer” (these products are on the market since decades and belong to the medical tool-kit)… and that these products contain merely tiny amounts of mercury – even the largest manufacturers of these remedies only require a few milligrams for their production.

The plea of the manufacturers therefore is for an exemption from the new law which would allow the trade of mercury-containing remedies in future. They even have the support of some health politicians; for instance Peter Liese CDU favours an exemption for homeopathic medicines. The next meeting of the EU committee on public health will vote on the matter.

Personally, I can imagine the following dialogue between the EU officials (EU) and the lobbyists of the homeopathic industry (LOHI):

EU: We are very sorry but, because of the toxicity of mercury, we will not allow any of it in medicines.

LOHI: But we have always used it and nobody has come to harm.

EU: We don’t know that, and we have to be strict.

LOHI: We appreciate your concern, but we use only very, very tiny amounts; they cannot cause harm.

EU: The law is the law!

LOHI: Actually, the vast majority of our products are so dilute that they do not contain a single molecule of the ingredient on the bottle.

EU: That’s interesting! In this case, they are not medicines and we will have to ban them.

LOHI: NO, no, no – you don’t understand. We potentise our medicines; this means that the ingredient that they no longer contain gets more and more powerful.

EU: Are you sure?

LOHI: Absolutely!

EU: In this case, we will ban not just your mercury products but all your phony remedies. Because either science is right and they are fraudulent, or you are correct and they are dangerous.

18 Responses to Monty Python and the homeopaths

  • Should that be, “if there isn’t any mercury then why is it on the label”?

  • Mercury in vaccines–bad! Mercury in homoeopathic remedies–good!

    Hmmmmmm….

  • Homeopathy doesn’t work….unless you are Usain Bolt, who has been using it since his teens, and it helped heal his hamstring in time to win a fistful of Olympic Gold Medals at RIO after he withdrew from Olympic training.

    DON’T USE HOMEOPATHY FFS!!!

  • A little off topic but would be pleased to hear peoples opinions.
    I read on a packet of anthroposophic treatment that is injected (Meteoreisen Inject, Wala) that it contains Ferrum sidereum (not too sure what that is exactly) D11, Phosphorus D5 and Quartz D11.
    Now D11 and D5 as far as I understand are not as dilute as typical homeo treatments (C12+), so can they have some effect? Also how can Phosophorus and Quartz themselves be diluted?

    • …can they have some effect? depends on what is diluted, how much you take, for how long etc. in the case you cite, I doubt it.
      Also how can Phosophorus and Quartz themselves be diluted? THIS IS FROM THE BOOK I AM ABOUT TO PUBLISH: Trituration is the method used for manufacturing potencies of solid, insoluble stock. It consists in grinding the source material in another solid material, usually lactose. For producing liquid potencies from this, the trituration is then dissolved in water to continue the potentisation by succussion as with a normal liquid potency.

    • The process of trituration is demonstrated in this video from Boiron.

      This video from another homeopathy manufacturer shows the same process and this section on potentisation is worth watching for the lols.

    • Thanks Edzard and Alan, loved the production process seems the potenization guy gets a good work out!!!.
      As a layman I am still somewhat confused by the trituration process. If I take Quartz ground it up and mix it with lactose then dissolve the mix in water I fail to see how the Quartz is now soluble, is it not just more finely dispersed but still insoluble? If so what of the chances of getting a particle of quartz in the D11 solution?

      • precisely!!!

      • It’s just another homeopathic delusion. I suspect that once the material has been ground up with a large volume of sugar and a pinch of it added to water, they just don’t see the remaining small amount of material gather at the bottom of the test tube…

        • The process of succussion following each dilution [termed “dynamisation” or “potentisation” by homeopaths] ensures that the insoluble material, which would naturally gather at the bottom of the test tube, will never be observed by the hopelessly deluded homeopaths, nor by their unwitting clients.

          I was initially taught (decades ago) about soluble and insoluble materials, and solvents, by my high-school chemistry teachers.

          Quartz is the least susceptible to weathering:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldich_dissolution_series

  • If not a sketch from Monty Python, the scenario reminds me of the song by Fire Sign Theater, “How Can You be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All?”

  • Excellent. The Pythons should make the sketch.

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