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Old 17th August 2011, 07:46 AM   #1
Milbrandt
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Angry Homeopathy producer Boiron threatens blogger

Have you guys and girls heard about this yet?
Boiron, a French company that produces homeopathic 'remedies' (most notably Oscillococcinum) is threatening legal actions against an Italian blogger, Samuele Riva. Basically Riva wrote about the nonsense of Oscillococcinum on his blog.

Now I don't know if they have any case at all here, but it made me think whether this happens more often. I think it's pretty cowardly for such a big company to go after a lone blogger instead of the larger media that also criticize homeopathy.

Also, I wanted to put it out there so that more people know about this, because they tried to censor his blog for writing about them.

Here is a link to the English part of Riva's blog: http://www.blogzero.it/contatti/prova/
Also, SBM wrote about this: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/...thic-thuggery/

You can find the letter they sent him on his blog, but it's in Italian, so I don't understand it.

What do you think about this? And do you know of any other cases of such a big company trying to censor or sue individual bloggers or writers?
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Old 17th August 2011, 07:51 AM   #2
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Ha! Idiotic move on the part of a company that relies on its customers' gullibility. Would love to see them in court "proving" that homeopathy works.
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Old 17th August 2011, 07:59 AM   #3
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Boiron attacks blogger

Samuele Riva, an Italian blogger published a description of the water labelled as oscillococcinum. Boiron, a French producer of this water, has threatened Riva and forced the withdrawal of mention of their name from the particular page. Boiron have complained that the comment was '“untrue and derogatory both of homeopathy and [the] company,”. As the blog is mainly in Italian and parts are now redacted, I cannot comment on the untrue part, but how can you be derogatory about a quack preparation (very true in this case) and a company that sells quackery when presenting the facts?

This has been reported in the BMJ and by Steven Novella in Science Based Medicine. Novella's article contains fascinating information about what is NOT in the water.

I haven't found reference to this in the JREF Fora, if this is a duplicate or in the wrong section, please merge/delete as you feel appropriate.
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Old 17th August 2011, 08:50 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Milbrandt View Post
Now I don't know if they have any case at all here, but it made me think whether this happens more often. I think it's pretty cowardly for such a big company to go after a lone blogger instead of the larger media that also criticize homeopathy.
Memories of Simon Singh here
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Old 17th August 2011, 02:11 PM   #5
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I think everyone who has a blog should post info like this. I think I will.
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Old 17th August 2011, 02:15 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Almo View Post
I think everyone who has a blog should post info like this. I think I will.
May be a reason to start a blog . . .
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Old 17th August 2011, 03:08 PM   #7
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Good page on Boiron here, including its letter threatening the blogger:
http://esowatch.com/en/index.php?title=Boiron
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Old 17th August 2011, 03:53 PM   #8
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When esowatch blogged yesterday about the topic, it created an avalance. Here in Germany about 20 blogs have reblogged the story. It even found its way to the stock news about of Boiron

Well, I had never heard of Boiron before yesterday. And I guess, I am not alone. If this story spreads like the same wildfire as in Germany, it would be huge...

It was "THE" social network story yesterday here in Germany...
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Old 17th August 2011, 11:45 PM   #9
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Sounds like Boiron should have googled the Streisand_effectWP
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Old 18th August 2011, 12:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Andrew Wiggin View Post
Sounds like Boiron should have googled the Streisand_effectWP
Indeed, the main reason I posted it here was to make sure more people knew about this. Of course, you all know that homeopathy is humbug, but maybe you didn't know they'd try to censor it like this. Anyway, I think the best way to fight this type of censorship is to spread the word.
And apparently it works, according to the link Blue Wode gave, the blog entry went from 150 views in the first 56 hours to thousands of views per day.

Also, I've heard about homeopathy and oscillococcinum before, but I didn't really know Boiron at all. Now I do.
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Old 18th August 2011, 12:32 AM   #11
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Cool, calm and collected response to the saga in BMJ here:
http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d...#bmj_el_268827

Yuri
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Old 18th August 2011, 12:40 AM   #12
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Informal English translation of letter sent by Boiron threatening blogger Samuele Riva:
Quote:
[On the letterhead of Boiron Italy]

Subject: Web site «Blogzero.it» – Libelous content – Intimation and request of removal

From the NIC (Network Information Center) it appears that you manage the domain «blogzero.it», registered on the name of Mr Samuele Riva.

On 13 July 2011, on the website appeared an article under the headline: «Homoeopathy: myth and legend», signed by «Samuele», libelous of homoeopathy and our Company.

In particular, in such article, announced as the first of a series, after expressing untrue and unfounded opinions on homoeopathy, appeared a photograph of two tubes of our medicine «Oscillococcinum» with the following caption: «The Nothing-at-all that according to Boiron treats flu… diluted 200K it doesn’t contain any molecule of active principle!».

Later, on 27 July 2011, another article is published under the headline «Homoeopathy: myth and legend (2)», signed by «Samuele», again libelous of homoeopathy and our medicine «Oscillococcinum».

In fact, under the picture of our medicine the following caption was published: «Seriously damages the intelligence (of those buying it)».

The article goes on citing our medicine and our Company and announcing a new article on the issue.

The publication over the Internet of such messages, untrue and derogatory of homoeopathy and our Company and our medicine seriously tarnishes the reputation of our Company, as described in the Article 595 of the penal code, and causes serious damages which could be recovered in a civil court.

You, being the manager of the blog through which those messages have been and continue to be diffused, are responsible for the control over the content, and hence you are co-responsible both from the penal and the civil point of view, of the defamation undercourse.

In the light of all that has been written, with this letter we intimate/order you – in your quality of manager and hence responsible subject for the domain blogzero.it – to remove immediately and, in any case, no later than 24 hours after receiving this letter all articles signed «Samuele», including every picture of our medicine and any and all references to our medicines and our company.



In addition, we warn you against any unauthorised use within your blog of pictures of our products and the logos of our Company.



We finally warn you to prevent Mr Samuele, author of the cited libelous articles, to access blogzero.it.

Missing such acts/if you don’t comply we reserve the right of any further actions to defend our rights and interests.

With Regards

Laboratoires Boiron srl (Italian arm of Boiron)

The Chief Executive Officer

Dott.ssa Silvia Nencioni

Via http://presenteduepuntozero.wordpres...alian-blogger/
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Old 18th August 2011, 12:47 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Milbrandt View Post
You can find the letter they sent him on his blog, but it's in Italian, so I don't understand it.

There's an English translation of Boiron's letter (translated by the author of the BMJ article) linked from there now.

ETA: you were too quick for me.
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Old 18th August 2011, 12:55 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Blue Wode View Post
Informal English translation of letter sent by Boiron threatening blogger Samuele Riva:
Quote:
...

In particular, in such article, announced as the first of a series, after expressing untrue and unfounded opinions on homoeopathy, appeared a photograph of two tubes of our medicine «Oscillococcinum» with the following caption: «The Nothing-at-all that according to Boiron treats flu… diluted 200K it doesn’t contain any molecule of active principle!».

...

Via http://presenteduepuntozero.wordpres...alian-blogger/

Perhaps they should have looked up Oscillococcinum on Wikipedia, where they would have found a link to a news story quoting "Boiron spokeswoman Gina Casey" as saying "Of course it is safe. There's nothing in it."
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Old 18th August 2011, 01:09 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Yuri Nalyssus View Post
Cool, calm and collected response to the saga in BMJ here:
http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d...#bmj_el_268827

Yuri

With a response from George Lewith complaining that the BMJ have reported this ("why is this ill informed irrelevance news in the BMJ?"), citing "obvious vested interests on both sides", and quoting the (now withdrawn) Cochrane review dissected by Steven Novella.

Does anyone know what the "obvious" vested interest of the blogger is?
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Old 18th August 2011, 01:32 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
With a response from George Lewith complaining that the BMJ have reported this ("why is this ill informed irrelevance news in the BMJ?"), citing "obvious vested interests on both sides", and quoting the (now withdrawn) Cochrane review dissected by Steven Novella.

Does anyone know what the "obvious" vested interest of the blogger is?
No, but we know the obvious vested interest of George Lewith of the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at the University of Southampton.
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Old 18th August 2011, 01:43 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Does anyone know what the "obvious" vested interest of the blogger is?
Maybe he enjoys being sued by multi-billion multinational companies?

Takes all sorts you know...

I think the 'obvious vested interest' that they are worried about is the same as the rest of us - it's best to be truthful. Obviously that runs contrary to most of the central tenents of homeopathy, particularly those making money out of it.

Yuri
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Old 18th August 2011, 01:50 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by gerdbonk View Post
No, but we know the obvious vested interest of George Lewith of the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at the University of Southampton.
In fairness his response seems pretty balanced. He reports the Cochrane report conclusion "Current evidence does not support a preventative effect of Oscillococcinum-like homeopathic medicines in influenza and influenza-like syndromes".

Bit strange about the vested interest thing though.

Yuri
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Old 18th August 2011, 02:16 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Blue Wode View Post
Informal English translation of letter sent by Boiron threatening blogger Samuele Riva:



Via http://presenteduepuntozero.wordpres...alian-blogger/
I can see the problem in that text. He specifically mentions Boiron's name and product, and makes claims that it "damages your intelligence". This is objectively wrong.

If he were to tone it down just a little, there should be no problem; they would not dare to take a claim that there is nothing in it to court.

I have an article on my homepage about homoeopathy, and I have had reactions. I had quoted some posts from a homoeopathic forum, and were asked to remove them. Since my point was not to beef with individual homoeopaths, I did so, but the article remains. This didn't keep them from slandering me on the forum.

But, that's how it is, if you can't reach the ball, go for the man.

Hans
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Old 18th August 2011, 08:30 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Yuri Nalyssus View Post
In fairness his response seems pretty balanced. He reports the Cochrane report conclusion "Current evidence does not support a preventative effect of Oscillococcinum-like homeopathic medicines in influenza and influenza-like syndromes".

Bit strange about the vested interest thing though.

Yuri
The bit about the blogger not considering the science is also strange when he supplies evidence that supports Riva's statements about the product.
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Old 18th August 2011, 09:57 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
I can see the problem in that text. He specifically mentions Boiron's name and product, and makes claims that it "damages your intelligence". This is objectively wrong.
Yep. Post hoc fallacy.
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Old 18th August 2011, 01:08 PM   #22
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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) have invited Boiron to sue them too:

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blog..._please_sue_us
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Old 18th August 2011, 02:21 PM   #23
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Quote:
“Duck liver and heart”? Sounds like cat food to me… Cat food that’s been diluted until the cat doesn’t want it…



Rolfe.
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Old 18th August 2011, 02:32 PM   #24
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If I remember correctly, it was my mother's purchase of Oscillococcinum that caused me to look up what homeopathy was, which then led to the YouTube video of James Randi explaining it. I wouldn't have found my way here without the intentionally obscure Latin they used on the ingredients label.

So an extremely tiny negative to this story: If they sue, and lose on the grounds of false advertisement, someone else might not have a reason to research this garbage. So tiny it's probably turned back into a positive.

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Old 18th August 2011, 03:30 PM   #25
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Quack, Quack, Quackery...
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Old 18th August 2011, 11:48 PM   #26
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Here's another youtube vid on the subject
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4_Vu7juiok
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Old 19th August 2011, 02:25 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by summand View Post
Quack, Quack, Quackery...
Well - if you dilute and succuss the duck out, it is a fair comment, that a quack is all there is left.
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Old 19th August 2011, 04:17 AM   #28
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The story now made its way to national Italian media, namely the website of La Repubblica, a big newspaper in Italy: http://www.repubblica.it/salute/2011...gger-20549662/
Translation (I think reasonably good) here: http://translate.google.com/translat...er-20549662%2F
From what I can tell the article doesn't really choose any side, but just reports the story and the reactions to it. Still, this means even more people will read about this.
This is becoming one of the best examples of the Streisand Effect and I'm glad to be a part of it. I hope Boiron soon realises there's no stopping rational thinking people from telling it how it is.
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Old 19th August 2011, 08:01 AM   #29
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It's also made its way to the German media
http://www.handelsblatt.com/technolo...r/4511866.html

How long before the conflict make the English language mainstream?
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Old 19th August 2011, 09:46 AM   #30
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I've just blogged on this myself (zenbuffy [dot] com/2011/08/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf/), and some of you might be interested in Martin Robbins' miniblog (plus.google [dot] com/111513818314552647564/posts/eQP7vvYkGWF), which also includes some comments from Riva himself.

I think that an awful lot of people are declaring this case to be something it's not, simply because they're not reading all the material in question. I don't want to defend Boiron's behaviour, because I do think it's a bit bully-ish, but the simple fact of the matter is that Riva did use a copyrighted image without permission, and they do have a right to call him on that. Similarly, his blog did state that they advertise Oscill... as a cure for flu, which they very specifically (and I'm sure, purposely) don't. In Italy, falsely attributing a statement as fact like this falls very clearly under their defamation law.

Ultimately, I don't like what Boiron are doing, but I also don't think it's correct to paint this as a David v Goliath style battle, because Riva did do some things wrong. When called on it, he posted on that miniblog saying that since it was just one copyrighted image, since his blog didn't get many viewers, and since "everyone else does it", they should leave him alone. It's this kind of sloppy thinking and writing which left the door open for Boiron to complain in the first place - copyright violation is copyright violation, even if you think the product is bunkum.

Sorry for the mangled urls, I can't post links yet, but the discussion on Martin Robbins' page is really quite interesting and deserves a look. Anyone who can't get in due to a lack of Google Plus invite, pm me and I'll send you one as I have a few left over.
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Old 19th August 2011, 10:03 AM   #31
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They certainly tell you to treat flu symptoms with it...and to get to a doctor if it doesn't cure the symptoms.

http://www.boironusa.com/products/oscillococcinum.php
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Old 19th August 2011, 10:20 AM   #32
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I did look at Martin Robbins' page and your blog (I think I can't react on the Google+ page). Here are the links:
https://plus.google.com/111513818314...ts/eQP7vvYkGWF
http://www.zenbuffy.com/2011/08/whos...-big-bad-wolf/
It's true that if he used a copyrighted image (and for now I trust he did) that is of course his mistake.
But I have my questions about the cure thing. There's a discussion going on about the definition of "remedy" but it also says right on the package of Oscillococcinum that it's "Flu Medicine" and "Homeopathic Medicine".
I'm not too sure about the definitions of these words, but they sure seem to imply to me that it's a cure. But like I said, I'm not sure of those definitions.
I think that this is, like you (zenbuffy) and Martin Robbins seem to agree with me, splitting hairs and mostly besides the point. As Osc... neither relieves nor cures flu or flu-like symptoms.

I surely hope that this doesn't give them any ammunition in their possible case against Riva.
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Old 19th August 2011, 11:26 AM   #33
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I think the definition of cure, remedy, etc. could definitely become an issue if it does go to court, and it would be interesting to see how that pans out.

Overall, I think it's an odd case - an awful lot of people rushing into it with very little information, and until we have a very accurate translation of the letter (and indeed of the blog) it's hard to get into the nitty-gritty of what is and isn't libel, especially when you start mixing in potential problem words like remedy/cure/etc.

Re: not being able to contribute, are you on Google+? I thought it was a public page...
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Old 19th August 2011, 11:42 AM   #34
Almo
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Originally Posted by LTC8K6 View Post
They certainly tell you to treat flu symptoms with it...and to get to a doctor if it doesn't cure the symptoms.

http://www.boironusa.com/products/oscillococcinum.php
Actually, if you look closely, they don't.

Quote:
Oscillococcinum®
Flu-like Symptoms
It does not say it treats them. On all Boiron packaging, you see a weird name, and a stated malady. There is no text saying the "medicine" treats said malady.

ETA: at the bottom I see:

Quote:
Active Ingredient
Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum 200CK HPUS
To reduce the duration and severity of flu-like symptoms
Not sure about this part. It's very clear they avoid saying "Treatment" elsewhere on the packaging.
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Last edited by Almo; 19th August 2011 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 19th August 2011, 11:55 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by zenbuffy View Post
I think the definition of cure, remedy, etc. could definitely become an issue if it does go to court, and it would be interesting to see how that pans out.
I agree.

Originally Posted by zenbuffy View Post
Overall, I think it's an odd case - an awful lot of people rushing into it with very little information, and until we have a very accurate translation of the letter (and indeed of the blog) it's hard to get into the nitty-gritty of what is and isn't libel, especially when you start mixing in potential problem words like remedy/cure/etc.
You may have a point there. Speaking for myself, I didn't post it to get into the nitty-gritty part (at least not initially). I think that aside from the legal point of view and the varying definitions it's pretty clear what they tried to do here, namely to try and stop negative publicity about them. I don't think you should refrain from speaking out on this issue just because you don't know all the details. But like I said, I do get your point.

Originally Posted by zenbuffy View Post
Re: not being able to contribute, are you on Google+? I thought it was a public page...
I can watch the page, but I can't reply. If you have to sign up for Google+ to reply, then it makes sense, as I didn't. I didn't really try hard to figure out how to reply though.
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Old 19th August 2011, 11:56 AM   #36
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Ok, well, if you'd like an invite, I have a bunch. I'm not even sure if you need an invite any more though!

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Old 19th August 2011, 12:14 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Almo View Post
It's very clear they avoid saying "Treatment" elsewhere on the packaging.

This may not be the current packaging, but apparently previously they have made those claims:

http://images.swansonvitamins.com/en.../BRN003_Xl.jpg


ETA: This back panel is hard to read, but it does say "Temporarily relieves flu-like symptoms...":

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/imag...-081711-02.jpg
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Last edited by AdMan; 19th August 2011 at 12:16 PM.
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Old 19th August 2011, 01:08 PM   #38
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You see, I suspect this is where there will be a legal problem. By saying things like "relieve flu like or flu symptoms" they avoid saying "cure". They're not curing flu, or even treating it, they're just just relieving the symptoms. I suspect that they can say things like "relieve symptoms" in much the same way as makeup commercials can use phrases like "may reduce wrinkles" - i.e. that there is no proof, so they can't say "definitely gets rid of every wrinkle ever" so they just dance around the point instead...

Last edited by zenbuffy; 19th August 2011 at 01:10 PM. Reason: forgot to add a sentence
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Old 19th August 2011, 09:34 PM   #39
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Looks like the tables have been turned and Boiron is being sued in California.

Does anybody know how these things progress?
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Old 19th August 2011, 09:55 PM   #40
LTC8K6
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Originally Posted by Almo View Post
Actually, if you look closely, they don't.



It does not say it treats them. On all Boiron packaging, you see a weird name, and a stated malady. There is no text saying the "medicine" treats said malady.

ETA: at the bottom I see:



Not sure about this part. It's very clear they avoid saying "Treatment" elsewhere on the packaging.
They are clearly directing you to use it to treat your symptoms of the flu, if I'm on the jury.
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