MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

According to the 2014 European Social Survey, Spain is relatively modest when it comes to using alternative therapies. While countries such as Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Sweden and Switzerland all have 1-year prevalence figures of over 30%, Spain only boasts a meagre 17%. Yet, its opposition to bogus treatments has recently become acute.

In 2016, it was reported that a master’s degree in homeopathic medicine at one of Spain’s top universities has been scrapped. Remarkably, the reason was “lack of scientific basis”. A university spokesman confirmed the course was being discontinued and gave three main reasons: “Firstly, the university’s Faculty of Medicine recommended scrapping the master’s because of the doubt that exists in the scientific community. Secondly, a lot of people within the university – professors and students across different faculties – had shown their opposition to the course. Thirdly, the postgraduate degree in homeopathic medicine is no longer approved by Spain’s Health Ministry.”

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of being invited to a science festival in Bilbao and was impressed by the buoyant sceptic movement in Spain. At the time, two of my books were published in Spanish and received keen interest by the Spanish press.

 

And now, it has been reported that Spain’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 have until April 2019 to prove that their remedies actually work, which may very well completely slash homeopathic products in Spain.

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. Spain’s Health Ministry stopped allowing homeopathy 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.

“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.”

10 Responses to Spain no longer tolerates quackery

  • Excellent!

  • Maravilloso

    (Sorry, can’t find the necessary inverted exclamation mark!)

  • As a spaniard there are many things I am ashamed of. But this is something to be really proud of.

    As they say:
    Don’t bash homeopathy, it didn’t do anything to you!

  • Spain is subject to the same EU Directives as the UK and other EEA member states with relation to registration of homeopathic medicines. It has something equivalent to the UK National Rules Scheme that allows for limited indications consistent with “traditional” use in homeopathy. There’s also an equivalent of Simplified Scheme that does not allow any indications. Homeopathic medicines not registered under either scheme have the status of unlicensed medicines – supply to /by anyone other that licensed medical practitioners is legally restricted. Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (AEMPS) are responsible for approving registration applications and enforcement.

    It’s very likely AEMPS (like other EU medicines regulators) has turned a blind eye to the flagrant breaches of regulations of medicines regulations in the past but this seems to suggest that this going to end.

    EU Directives relating to homeopathic medicines were the result of French/German manufacturer lobbying. They were imposed on EEA members states that had no tradition of homeopathy or that were not inclined to treat homeopathic products as medicines (ie they are food).

    It’s worth pointing out Spain is a civil law jurisdiction. The practice of medicine is restricted to licensed medical professionals – it’s a criminal offence for lay persons to do so. This http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Jh2943e/7.17.html is out of date but much of it still apples. There are some ex-pat Dutch, Irish and UK lay homeopaths practicing illegal in Spain. It’s quite likely there are Heilpraktikers as well.

    • As you said, Spain is subject to the UE Directives, but there is a little margin concerning the registration of homeopatic medicines. To register a homeopathic remedy (I find it difficult to call them “medicines”) under the ordinary scheme, the manufacturer must provide evidence of its efficacy and safety, and although in some countries the “traditional use in homeopathy” has been considered sufficient to prove it, in Spain the Medicines Agency, AEMPS, will require preclinical, clinical and pharmacological tests.

      As for the registration under the ordinary scheme, the AEMPS and the Ministry of Health have stated that will apply strictly the law, including the limitations of publicity (that are almost equivalent to a prohibition, as the publicity can only contain the names of product and manufacturer, but it is forbiden to claim any indication for the remedy). And yesterday the AEMPS opened a public consultation for fifteen days to ask for suggestions on how to force these products to contain a warning on their labeling that they have not passed any scientific test.

      As you said, the AEMPS had turned a blind eyes on this question for too many years, but since the last changes in the Government and the arrival of Carmen Montón, first, and now María Luisa Carcedo, as Ministers of Health, this has changed completely. In fact the mos inmportant officials on this area, the General Director of Farmacy, Patricia Lacruz, and the recently appointed Director of the AEMPS, María Jesús Lamas, are strong supporters of science-based medicines, and have spoken clearly against homeopathy and other pseudosciences.

      Ten years ago almost all universities in Spain had a degree or course on homeopathy, the Medical Associations had sections of homeopathy and other “natural therapies”, and manufacturers of homeopathy sold their products with so little control from the authorities that they did not even pay taxes. It has been a long and difficult road and, as is pointed in other comentaries, there are still problems to solve, but now the situation is nearly the opposite. Let’s hope the same will happen throughout Europe (including UK, of course).

  • Method:
    We split the volunteers into 2 groups randomly. One would receive standard care treatment at the hospital, the other group would go to homeopath clinic.

    The volunteers were lead to the town square and then the bulls were released.

    😉

  • Lot of pharmacies here. Was in one the other day… flu season imminent… and Oscillococcinum on the shelf.

  • I am missing chiropractic on the list of pseudoscience. Great that they put osteopathy on it. The German health insurances should stop paying for alternative medicin osteopathy which is done according to the WHO benchmarks for training in osteopathy (WHO benchmarks for training in traditional complenmentary and alternative medicine)

  • There are some good signs, but pharmacies still regularly sell this junk (I even know pharmacists who use it!) and, as I have mentioned here before, the University of Barcelona has accepted a faculty of Chinese Trad. medicine and offers a “Masters” in it, as well as summer schools ….so, some way to go. Chiropractic flourishes, too, very few people even seem to know there is doubt over it.

    • A lot of people here (USA) think chiropractic is a medical sub-specialty, like optometry, podiatry and such. Many assume they have a medically approved education. To my horror, my grandson’s university (rated second in our state) offers not only pre-med and pre-dental, but….pre-chiropractic! How do people these days get to be university administrators with such a lack of general knowledge, not to mention critical thinking?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

If you want to be able to edit your comment for five minutes after you first submit it, you will need to tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”
Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted but you must tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”


Click here for a comprehensive list of recent comments.

Categories