However, I thought it was time to dust it down and see if it still works.
I've been in discussion with the MHRA - the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency regarding yet another natural wonderdrug for arthritis.
Let me introduce you to Artrosilium. It is one in a very long line of dodgy products aimed at the 5 million or so Britons who have arthitis or similar diseases. Your humble blogger is sadly included in that statistic.
There is no cure for arthritis and so depending on the severity (very mild in my case) sufferers adhere to an often complicated regime of pain management, that can be seemingly affected by small changes in diet, the weather, possibly even aliens.
(This last one, incidentally, is proof of someone's rule - I'll call it Dr* T's Second Rule until someone corrects me - whereby regardless of what you imagine, someone on the net has already written about it. Perhaps I have a limited imagination).
Anyway, Artrosilium is being sold via a .co.uk website, which to me indicates a UK company, and I was a) not convinced that the product had any efficacy, and b) concerned that the website made unsubstantiated claims with no real proof or indeed the direction to find the proof.
So, I started by sending a letter to the MHRA outlining my concerns. Initially, they told me it was a Guernsey based company and not under MHRA control, although they would inform the authorities.
Since I started my conversation with MHRA regarding Artsosilium, the website undertook an overhaul. Previously it had claims of being "The Proven Natural Remedy for Arthritis", which has now become "Guaranteed Arthritis Relief". A subtle change from remedying the arthritis itself, to remedying the pain from arthritis. Baby steps no less. However even the 'alleviation of pain' is not proven or backed up anywhere on the site.
The claims that
"Although Artrosilium was initially developed to treat arthritis, more and more customers are reporting that it relieves other ailments such as skin irritation, burns, sunburn, insect bites, herpes and even prostate problems – so this really could be a “miracle cure”.have also been removed.
Nonetheless, I persevered with MHRA to find out what they would do about a company advertising pain relief for Arthritis on a co.uk website using a gel that contains silica (without going into the details of how this will be transported to the desired area).
This was their reply:
The UK address I identified at the beginning of my investigation turned out to be that of a web-designer working on behalf of a Swiss Company. It therefore seems that the companies associated with artrosilium are not based in the UK which makes enforcement of UK medicines legislation almost impossible. However, I have written to the regulatory authorities in both Guernsey and Switzerland to ask them to investigate whether the product and its advertising comply with any relevant legislation. Realistically, in the absence of a UK presence for the company placing Artrosilium on the market I do not think there is any further action I can take.
I am sorry to send you what will seem a very disappointing reply.
Now, the updated website has indeed changed its address from Guernsey to Switzerland but is still linking to books about nonsense like:
How to get rid of Arthritis and Rheumatism by Robert Dehin
which is also a .co.uk website.
We have a framework in this country for regulating medicines and healthcare products. I want to know that if I buy something medicinal in UK, it has been through the relevant tests for efficacy, safety etc. and I can rely on bodies like MHRA to ensure that rogue traders are dealt with efficiently.
However, it appears that this is not the case. In my mind, anyone selling a product on a .co.uk website should come fully under the authority of the UK and its agents.
The MHRA has admitted that does not happen. I think that is dangerous - next stop, parliament.
EDIT (30/5/08): I'm getting there, things are starting to move. In the mean time, it turns out that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has already pulled ARTROSILIUM up for talking rubbish, making nonsense claims and not backing anything up. This product really is dubious - yet this company is making money from vulnerable people.
EDIT (15/9/08): IntraMed have once again been censured by the ASA for their product Ginkgo Biloba. Same old same old.