Yesterday about 300 people took an "overdose" of homeopathic remedies in city and town centres across the United Kingdom.
I was one of them, standing with Dave Gorman, Simon Singh, Evan Harris MP and many others in a frosty Red Lion Square in London.
This event was part of the 10:23 campaign, seeking both to promote a better public understanding of homeopathy and to put an end to the marketing of homeopathic products as medicinal products.
My "overdose" was of 30c Arnica.
(They were supplied to me on the day by comedian and Westminster Skeptic, the estimable Chris Coltrane.)
The label on the tube was revealing.
It expressly states that it is a Boots product.
After the Boots logo, it says "A Homeopathic Medicinal Product".
But, of course, as a matter of simple fact, only three of those words are meaningful.
Nonetheless, Boots formally and deliberately hold this out to be a medicinal product.
There is then the lengthy label small-print.
Without even reading it, without even holding the tube close enough to focus on what the small-print says, the blurb of small-print gives one an overall impression.
And the overall impression which it gives, and is undoubtedly intended to give, is that this is a regulated medicinal product: the sort of which requires all this legalistic waffle.
The small-print actually goes 40% around the circumference of the tube.
So, the consumer is told that this a medicinal product, and the consumer can see there is lots of small-print: all this must serve as a reassurance to the average consumer.
As one's eyes focus on the small-print, certain words and phrases begin to stand out, and are intended to do so because they are in bold, in red font, or block capitals.
In bold are: How to use, Dosage, and Advice.
In red font are: "The 30c Homeopathic potency of Arnica montana" and "Handle carefully, homoeopathic medicine in an inner glass vial".
And in block capitals: "KEEP OUT OF THE REACH AND SIGHT OF CHILDREN".
In such legalistic small-print, one emphasises particular statements because they are more important for the consumer to realise. Sometimes such emphasis is legally required; but sometimes it comes down to the simple good sense or good intentions of the vendor or manufacturer.
So it is telling what Boots chose to emphasise, and what not to emphasise.
In respect of my tube of 30c Arnica, Boots chose to emphasise what would give the average consumer the impression that Arnica 30c is a genuine medicinal product.
Furthermore, Boots carry on with this charade even in the non-emphasised small-print. In particular, there is the astonishing statement: "If symptoms worsen or persist consult a doctor".
The necessary implication of this sentence is that this medicinal product will treat (unstated) symptoms. The words "if" and "persist" can only be read in this way.
It is only with the last sentence, some twelve lines down, and after all the bold, red font, and bock capitals, that Boots finally state:
"A homeopathic medicinal product without approved therapeutic indications."
Boots could have put his in bold, red font, or block capitals. Nothing was stopping them.
But, for some reason, this is the least emphasised statement on the tube...
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