Ahvaz petition to stop regulating CAM

Oh dear! I just don’t understand why people feel so strongly that complimentary and alternative medicine should be exempt from being regulated. I bet these same people who might sign this petition are also shouting for better ingredient lists on food and labeling of items as GMO, but are happy to blissfully take whatever water or herbal concoction their various CAM practitioner suggest with no idea what is in it or whether it may be harmful or not or even do anything at all. The only homeopathic medicine I will take is an ice pack on a bruise. If I did take anything herbal, I’d want to know what was in it, what the correct dosage was and any side effects and possible interactions, and if there was any good quality evidence it works, and I just don’t understand why anyone doesn’t want the same.


Whoops, just seen my typo *Avaaz

In principle I don’t like it when things are regulated. It smacks of yet another bureaucratic branch sticking out at right angles from an already lopsided governmental tree, and bearing a crop of new civil servants armed with inspector’s badges and rubber stamps. Who needs to be paid. With our money. And that at the cost of the traditional herbalist scraping a living flogging his roots on the sidewalk. And who probably hasn’t poisoned anyone yet.

In particular I don’t want to see something regulated to death that is essentially harmless to those who have the common sense to avoid it. It interferes with natural selection.

Moreover, there may well be something to these traditional plant cures. I know of at least two modern medicines that can trace their origins back to early botanical wisdom, and I suspect there may be a net advantage in letting the populace experiment with our rich plant heritage. It may lead the way to formal research. The misanthrope in me view neither humans nor guinea pigs as a particularly threatened as a species.

So on these grounds I sympathize with the petitioners, but whether I’ll actively support them is another matter.


I tend towards Rigil’s views here: I am happy to let Darwin sort out CAM. Especially in South Africa - do we REALLY want even more of our current government?

As for Avaaz, I once signed one of their petitions, years ago. Can’t even remember what it was about anymore, but since then they have notified me of dozens or even hundreds of such petitions. They are the world’s prime launch pad for fashionably leftish bandwagons.

I hear what you both say, but why should alternative “medicine” not be held to the same standards of backing up their health claims as readl medicine is required to do?

It is false advertising really.

My real issue with CAM is when the desperate are suckered in, when someone has chronic pain or cancer or something that real medicine might not be able to help with, they get lured in by false promises, and a desperate person is then easily taken advantage of by something we all know cannot help at all. I get angry when people treat their children with CAM and say “oh, I wouldn’t use it for something serious like pneumonia” - who is going to diagnose their child? A homeopath who is not qualified to do so and may completely miss that the child is actually ill?

I think CAM should be held to the same standards as anyone else making claims about effectiveness, I don’t think that it is over regulation to require some basic minimum standards are adhered to.

CAM is a multi million rand business, peddling who knows what to people.
Brian and Rigil your argument is such as to say we should not go after scam artist, because well smart people wont be caught by them.

I think your distaste for the government may be influencing your opinion.

I think anything that makes it harder for businesses to make more money selling useless stuff is good.

Yup, the people behind this petition are either deluded or scammers, quite possibly both. They are demanding special leave allowing them to sell unregulated medications. They are no doubt very happy that conventional medicines are regulated but are hypocritical enough to dodge holding their own products up to a similar standard. The efficacy of their nostrums is an objective question that can be settled by the methods of scientific inquiry, not by a petition.

Or are they admitting by implication that their products don’t need regulation because they are, at bottom, no more than harmless placebos?

Whichever way you look at it, this petition is a peek into the strange self-aggrandising world of the CAM-pusher.


This is not about guys sitting on the pavement peddling roots, unfortunately.

Walk into any Clicks, peruse the aisles and you find wall-to-wall bullshit being peddled as cures for almost any ailment you can think of. Nicely packaged, with misleading labelling… This is big business, no matter what your average hippy tells you about the govt. trying to stomp on “the small guy”, this is really big money.

And across the way you have to stand and queue to talk to a pharmacist peddling the real stuff, except it claims to cure exactly the same ailment, costs more, and you may need a prescription. Customers are deliberately being lead from the frying pan straight into the fire.

So I’m also in the double standards camp. If you want to sell medicine, you have to comply with the law which governs medicine.

“Moreover, there may well be something to these traditional plant cures. I know of at least two modern medicines that can trace their origins back to early botanical wisdom, and I suspect there may be a net advantage in letting the populace experiment with our rich plant heritage.”

The plant cures that work do become real medicine - Asprin, heart medicine from Digitalis, Emex from some black thorn plant. There are numerous examples. There are probably more examples, but I’m not in the medical field so don’t know of many off hand. The problem is though, that when unregulated and sold in health stores and Clicks and Dischem on the shelves, do those pills and potions contain what they claim to contain, has a therapeutic dosage been discovered, is there any knowledge of side effects and drug interactions? Why should CAM be exempt from these very basic requirements of health care?

Intelligent people do still fall for this stuff. I think I read somewhere (probably on Science Based Medicine blog) that the biggest users of CAM have an undergraduate degree. I know that a degree is no guarantee of intelligence or critical thinking skills. These same people won’t believe any old thing about other things, but when it comes to their health, any old thing seems to do - and then they inflict this on their children who have no choice in the matter.

I would suspect that given such legislation, the cost of regulation won’t go up. I don’t think most makers of quack medicine would even try to comply.

I tend to agree, there won’t necessarily be any attempt at comliance, however, at least there will be legislation to stop pharmacies from selling the stuff - though apparently even the stuff that is currently illegal can be bought openly on pharmacy shelves. Perhaps CAM believers just need to be rubbed in coconut oil, it is the current cure all, so maybe it will cure them of their gullibility?

The main thrust of the legislation is not to ban harmless medication, but to ensure that it is properly labelled.

Shelves of leading retailers, including Clicks and Dis-Chem, carry hundreds of products such as homeopathic pills and aromatherapy oils that should carry labels informing customers their claimed benefits have not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council (MCC) and that they are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

The Avaaz petition is misleading.

Now that I do not have too much of a problem with.

A careful reading of that article reveals that the November 2013 amendments to the Medicines and Related Substances Act do indeed cover regulatory aspects of CAM preparations, specifically in terms of correct categorisation and criteria for registration with the MCC. It’s one thing selling high-priced vials of homoeopathic water; it’s quite another selling things like untested HIV and cancer cures or mercury-laden fish oils or silymarin-suffused liver destroyers disguised as “natural” milk thistle. These constitute regulatory aspects — the more critical ones — that the amendments were intended to address and which the woo merchants are resisting.


Of course, it’s in the interests of de-regulation that my favourite herbal remedy is now under scrutiny of being de-criminalized. We wouldn’t want to introduce any legislation to prevent that from happening, now do we?

All illegal narcotics are medicinal. Boredom is a disease worse than cancer. Drugs cure it, with little or no side effects if used as directed

In case you missed Leon Louw’s rant on this in Business Day, here’s my response to him (with Louw’s op-ed linked at the top).

Thanks, good article, Jacques.

Leon Louw seems to have an affinity for fringe medicine. IIRC, he, along with much of the then-Libertarian Party, was quite the supporter of Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS denialism. Their hero was none other than Peter Duesberg.


I have strong libertarian sentiments myself, but it is a source of endless frustration to me that the libertarian movement seems to be a veritable magnet for all manner of fringe nuttery.

Off topic, I think libertarian has become the catch all, for a bunch of crazy.
But I think it would be interesting if see if the free state project it takes proper hold to see what happens.


Louw tells the world there is no AIDS pandemic, climate change is mythology and no rhino species are endangered. Big woo monger.