HC Deb 02 August 1951 vol 491 cc1600-2
15 and 16. Dr. Stross

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that some proprietary medicines are not only expensive but useless; and what action he contemplates taking in order to protect the public;

(2) whether he will initiate an examination of the manufacture of proprietary medicines.

Mr. Marquand

There is already a considerable degree of legislative control over proprietary medicines and I have the matter generally under constant consideration. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any suggestions which he has in mind, I will gladly consider them.

Dr. Stross

Has my right hon. Friend considered the action that has been taken in France to bring about an improvement in this direction? If he has, can be tell us, briefly, what the French have done and whether he will consider doing something similar here?

Mr. Marquand

I have been aware, since my hon. Friend put his Question down, that there are special provisions in France, but I am sorry that I have not yet had time to study them.

Dr. Hill

In the consideration that the right hon. Gentleman gives to this matter will he bear in mind that the word "proprietary" covers not only the useless but the immensely valuable products as well, and that it is very desirable that there should be a clarification of terms in this matter?

Mr. Marquand

It is certainly true—I hope that my answer has not erred in this connection—that there are very valuable proprietary medicines.

Dr. Stross

I am not aware that my right hon. Friend's answer has dealt with the point in Question No. 16, in which I ask whether he will initiate an examination into the manufacture of proprietary medicines. Will he tell us whether an examination is being made into the ethical and the non-ethical, the useless and the useful?

Mr. Marquand

The Central Health Services Council have a special subcommittee, the Joint Committee on Prescribing, under Sir Henry Cohen, which is surveying the whole field of prescribing. They include a survey of the whole field of pharmaceutical preparations available for prescribing.

Lieut. -Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Is it not a fact that a large proportion of these proprietary medicines are a god-send for the treatment of minor complaints in the home, and that they all, so far as we know, conform to a very high standard of preparation?

Mr. Nally

While recognising the force of what was said by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not agree that there are sufficient of these so-called "proprietary medicines" whose efficacy is doubtful and whose prices represent a fantastic racket? In taking this matter into account, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the impatience that exists in all parts of the House at the fact that this question has been discussed time and time again for six years? Hon. Members are becoming very impatient about it.

Mr. Marquand

Quite a number of proprietary medicines and preparations have already been listed by Sir Henry Cohen's Committee and the names of those which are not desirable for prescribing have been notified to general practitioners.

Sir H. Williams

Is it not a fact that a large number of proprietary medicines are prescribed by physicians?

Mr. Marquand

There is no interference with the right of physicians to prescribe.

Mrs. Jean Mann

Is it not the case that the French forbid the distribution of unethical and useless proprietary medicines?

Mr. Marquand

I have not had time to inquire into so many questions about the French system.

Lieut. -Colonel Elliot

I well remember that there was an hon. Member on that side of the House, whom the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) will also remember, who spoke up vehemently in favour of a proprietary remedy for tuberculosis by which he said he had been cured. It was quite contrary to all medical experience, but it had done him a great deal of good.