Boiron, Please Sue Us

August 17, 2011

As you know, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) have publicly rebuked Wal-Mart for marketing homeopathic junk, in particular a product called Oscillococcinum, a purported remedy for flu. We are now inviting the product’s manufacturer, Boiron, to sue us. Here’s why.

Boiron is a large, multinational corporation based in France. Apparently, Boiron has recently decided to throw around its corporate weight by threatening to sue an Italian blogger who dared to speak the truth — that the so-called “active” ingredient in Oscillococcinum is so diluted that it is deceptive to describe it as “active.” Indeed, assuming Boiron has engaged in serial dilution to the extent it claims it has, it is highly likely there’s not a single molecule of the alleged “active” ingredient in its product.

Boiron lists the purported active ingredient for Oscillococcinum on its package (see photo). Because both CFI and CSI unambiguously assert that Boiron’s stated claim that “Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum 200CK HPUS” is an “active” ingredient is false and deceptive, we invite Boiron to take us to court in the United States. (For those not up on Latin and homeopathic verbiage, “Anas barbarie.” etc. is duck liver and heart—which, as indicated, is then diluted to or near the point of nonexistence.)

We are inviting Boron to litigate not because we think their suit might have merit; quite to the contrary, such a suit would have absolutely no merit. If sued in any American court, we are confident we will prevail. Homeopathy has no scientific basis. Instead, we are inviting litigation because we do not believe Boron should be able to silence critics by picking on isolated bloggers.

If Boiron has confidence in its product, then it will take us up on this invitation. If not, then we will have further confirmation that Boiron does not have the evidence to support the claims that it makes for its product.

In manufacturing and peddling ineffective junk, Boiron is doing a profound disservice to the public worldwide. Influenza is a serious disease and to exploit sick customers by marketing something that is ineffective (accept, arguably, as a placebo) is nothing short of shameful.

Boiron, if you sincerely believe your product has an “active” ingredient as labeled, then prove it. Don’t pick on just one blogger. Sue us and sue all those in the scientific community who know, and have asserted, that your claims are false. Boiron, put up — or shut down your product line.

Note: The original post has been amended to indicate the Italian blogger received a warning letter threatening suit. We have been informed that no court papers have yet been filed.

(This post reflects the official position of CFI and CSI.)


#1 Pip (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 3:31pm


#2 Guy Roukaerts (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 3:45pm

In France, chemists routinely display and sell homeo- and allopathic medicines alongside each other. My wife was sold a remedy against hay fever which “works really well” according to chemist, to discover it was a homeopathic concoction when arriving at home. No need to say it had absolutely no effect whatsoever.

#3 Ophelia Benson on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 4:27pm

Ha - I just did a blog post an hour ago (before seeing this) saying the same thing. Come and get me, Boiron.

It’s mostly just excerpts from Steven Novella’s informative post on the subject.

#4 Cat's Staff (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 11:04pm

I contributed as well…

#5 Cat's Staff on Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 11:12pm

Let me try again…

I contributed as well...

#6 _Stonez_ (Guest) on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 6:51am

As a healthcare provider I have to warn patients against this sort of thing regularly and more so with the Flu season quickly approaching.  Boiron taking action against a sole blogger (Samuele Riva) is just bully boy tactics, in an attempt to frighten others like him out of educating the populace of their subterfuge.

#7 Fabio Turone (Guest) on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 7:17am

I just wanted to correct a factual error in your post: as I wrote on the British Medical Journal after interviewing Samuele Riva, his internet provider and the CEO of Boiron Italy, the Company has only threatened to sue, so far.
Riva complied with their request and immediately removed the pictures of Oscillococcinum and the captions, so I suspect they will have no more grounds to proceed in courts (but I am not a lawyer).
On the other hand, when I explicitly asked - twice - the CEO of Boiron Italy whether they were fully satisfied or not she told me that she would re-evaluate the issue with the lawyer and with the main offices of the company (in France).
So in my opinion the threat of suing is still there.

#8 ronan (Guest) on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 9:19am

“Duck liver and heart”? Sounds like cat food to me… Cat food that’s been diluted until the cat doesn’t want it…

#9 anarchic teapot (Guest) on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 10:13am

Boiron are pretty powerful in France. I didn’t see anything in the French press when this story broke, not even Le Canard Enchainé (although they might have run it last week. I really need to take out a subscription).

I wrote about this too, and showed how Oscillo is, by Boiron’s own admission, 100% sugar. Let them sue on that. The day these quacks are no longer allowed to sell their crap and people start using real medicine is, I suspect, the day health costs go *down* because infections are caught and treated sooner.

#10 Iain Martel (Guest) on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 10:25am

Great post, but I do have one quibble:
You say the original ingredient is “diluted to or near the point of nonexistence”, and that"it is highly likely there’s not a single molecule of the alleged “active” ingredient in its product”. This greatly understates the case, and makes it sound like there may be the odd pill out there with a molecule or two of “active” ingredient. This isn’t true even with more normal homeopathic dilutions of 30C, but 200C is insanely more diluted.

Just to try to get a handle on how unlikely unlikely” is here: if Boiron made a 200C pill the size of the entire observable universe every second since the Big Bang, the odds of there being a single molecule of active ingredient in even one of those pills would still be vastly less than the odds of my winning the lottery twenty times in succession.

Let’s quit fudging with “probably” no active ingredient. Unless Boiron is lying about the 200C dilution, we can say with supreme confidence that no pill of Oscillococcinum 200C has ever contained a single molecule of active ingredient.

#11 John Richards (Guest) on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 12:04pm

These charlatans need to be put out of business. This is the 21st century not the dark ages.

#12 Ronald A. Lindsay on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 1:51pm

@Fabio. Thanks for the information, which we have confirmed. We have amended the post accordingly.

#13 Andreas Kyriacou on Thursday August 18, 2011 at 8:13pm

Boiron were only testing their newest creation on Riva: Streisand C200 ™, the incredible information potentiator.

#14 Rhia (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2011 at 2:47am

Boiron is being sued in a class action suit in California.

Put the www piece in here and you can view the court documents.

#15 Azama (Guest) on Saturday August 20, 2011 at 11:07am

Let me tell you something true, a 98 yo chemist tells me: Wen he starts in his job, an elder chemist he was about to replace explains him how he must sells homeopathy:
“Here, there’s 1Kg of pure sugar “granules”, here are the glass tubes you have to fill, and there, the labels you have to stick on the tubes, as it will be asked by customers”.

This is totally true, and he says there was never a problem with the officine customers !

Funny and true, homeopathy make me laugh, no need nitrous oxid, for such a result !

#16 Roy Grubb (Guest) on Sunday August 21, 2011 at 6:30am

But wait! There’s more. As described by Kash Farooq in this post at

#17 roygrubb on Sunday August 21, 2011 at 6:37am

But wait! There’s more. As described by Kash Farooq in this post at
the bacterium called Oscillococcus does not even exist (or has only ever been observed by one person, Joseph Roy, in 1917). So this ‘remedy’ starts with a component that is non-existent before the “succussion” and dilution even begin.

#18 ivabellini (Guest) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 at 3:23pm

Do you like italian bimbominkia???

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