For the thirteenth time in a row, fake treatments based on extreme dilutions of plant parts and heavy metals have been given an extended exemption from medical regulations in Sweden. The homeopathic products come from the Vidar Clinic located at Järna in the heart of the Swedish anthroposophy movement. Although Swedish law protects patients from quacks, the Swedish counterpart to the FDA have registered homeopathic products and they are being sold at pharmacies all around the country. Some fake medicine, such as anthroposophic homeopathy, has gotten especial exemption for years so they do not have to be registered or have any evidence of efficacy.
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a pseudoscientific “alternative” treatment based on two scientifically false notions:
(1) “like cures like” e. g. snake venom treats snake bites.
(2) “potentiation by serial dilution” i.e. extreme dilutions (even to the point of there being no molecule of the active substance left) make the “treatment” stronger.
These two ideas is contradicted by almost everything we know from physics, chemistry and biology about how diseases work, how dilutions work and the relationship between dose and response.
What is anthroposophy?
Anthroposophy is a quasi-religious worldview created by Rudolf Steiner that includes, among other things:
(i.) a mystical form of anti-evolution where all animals are devolved from a human-like state.
(ii.) biodynamic agriculture, an esoteric version of organic farming that includes astrology and burying animal parts.
(iii.) selected forms of alternative medicine, such as mistletoe against cancer and homeopathy, as well as anti-vaccine sentiments and beliefs about past lives.
What is the Vidar Clinic?
The Vidar Clinic is a Swedish hospital controlled by proponents of anthroposophy that is located outside the city of Järna (the major Swedish hub for Swedish anthroposophy). Documented “treatments” provided by this clinic includes iron from meteorite diluted to 20D (1 molecule of the substance in 1020 molecules of water) and intervertebral discs from cattle, bamboo and ants. Even more alarmingly, they treated people with severe anxiety with diluted gold and various plant extracts. The clinic also advised parents with children who had measles that vaccines caused autism and that parents should intentionally spread the measles rash to the entire body of the child. In other words, their treatments are unscientific and far too diluted to have any real therapeutic effect.
How are patients protected from quacks in Sweden?
Unlike many other countries, Sweden has a specific legal paragraph that protects vulnerable patents from the influence of quacks. The law in question is called Patientsäkerhetslag (2010:659), which roughly translates as Patient Safety Law. Its fifth chapter, previously known as the Quack Law, states that (my translation):
5th Ch. Restrictions in the right of others than health care personnel to take certain health care measures
§1 Others than health care personnel may not professionally examine the health status of someone else or treat another person for diseases or comparable state through taking or prescribing any of the following measures in preventative, curative or palliative purpose:
1. treat infectious diseases that according to the smittskyddslagen [communicative disease act – Emil’s note] (2004:168) are notifiable diseases,
2. treat cancer and other malignant tumors, diabetes, epilepsy or other diseased state in relation to pregnancy or delivery,
3. examine or treat another during general anesthesia or under local anesthesia through injection of anesthetic or during hypnosis,
4. treat another with radiological methods,
5. without personal examination, provide written advice or instructions for treatment,
6. examine or treat children below the age of eight, or
7. try out contact lenses.
In other words, there is a clear legal protection against quacks written into Swedish law. However, that has not stopped the Swedish Medical Products Agency from registered homeopathic preparations and pharmacies in Sweden from selling them.
Has Swedish Medical Products Agency really registered homeopathic preparations?
Yes, believe it or not. Homeopathic products are registered at the Medical Products Agency (the Swedish equivalent of the FDA but without the food part) and are being sold at pharmacies across the countries. The Medical Products Agency writes:
During investigation of a registration application of a homeopathic medication, the Medical Products Agency judges quality, safety, labeling and homeopathic usage. The Medical Products Agency does not evaluate the effect of homeopathic medications. There are no demands to show through clinical studies or literature references that a homeopathic medication have any effect. Any effect and/or indication is also not allowed to be given for a homeopathic medication.
Yes, they truly use the phrase “homeopathic medication”. Astonishingly absurd. Homeopathy is water (or sometimes water contaminated with heavy metals or active substances), not medication!
Even worse, the government has given an extended exception to anthroposophic homeopathy products for many years.
What about the extended exception for anthroposophic homeopathy products?
Here is where it gets legally complicated. It is true that patients are protected from quacks treating them with homeopathy or other forms of alternative treatments. It is also true that very diluted homeopathic products can be registered by the Medical Products Agency. However, the Vidar Clinic has scored a special extended exception from legal regulation that allows them to prescribe unregistered anthroposophic products (including but not limited to homeopathy) without having any evidence for efficacy that real medications need to have.
What is even worse is that this twilight zone of extended exceptions have been renewed 13 times! Medical doctor and skeptical blogger Mats Reimer calls this “dealing in pretend medicine” and a “pharmacological farce”. It seems that it does not even matter what political coalition rules the country: these extended exemptions have occurred during the reigns of both social democratic (left and green) and moderates (liberals and conservatives).
It is time for a change. No more extended exemptions for anthroposophic homeopathy fake-treatments. In fact, let us ban all fake treatments altogether.