Norway and the European Union
Although Norway is not a member of the EU, it is a member of the European Economic Area. In short, Norway implements much of EU law in order to gain access to the European Single Market. It has some key exemptions though that relate to fisheries and agriculture.
Norway does permit the practice of alternative therapies by the non-medically qualified although this is a recent innovation. Lov om alternativ behandling av sykdom mv (Law on Alternative Treatment etc) is the law in question. Fortunately, Google Translate does a very good job of turning it into English.
The key point about this law is that it prohibits the non-medically qualified from -
- Performing treatments or interventions that carry a serious health risk
- Treatment of communicable diseases (although it does permit treatment to alleviate symptoms there of or side effects of conventional treatment - but only a medical professional can treat the disease itself.
- Treatment of serious conditions and diseases (although, again, alleviation etc are permitted)
Where Norwegian law differs from UK law is that it makes doing any of the above a criminal offence, carrying possible fines and prison sentences. It also regards a patient not seeking proper treatment as the fault of the non-medical practitioner as well as making ignorance of putting a patient at danger inadmissible as a defence.
There are also restrictions on advertising which can only be a factual description of the business.
Norwegian medicines law does make mention of homeopathic medicines. Lov om legemidler m.v. (legemiddelloven) (Law on Medicinal Products, etc (Medicines Act)) is the main law but it doesn't explicitly mention homeopathy. Forskrift om rekvirering og utlevering av legemidler fra apotek (Regulations relating to the requisition and provision of medicines from pharmacies) mentions homeopathic medicines very briefly to say that they must carry a statement that the effects of the medicine are not "considered" or "rated". It talks in terms of homeopathic medicines that are available without prescription.
The law requires medicines to have a Marketing Authorisation. There are exceptions. The most important from the perspective of this article are -
- Magistral formulas - medicines compounded by a pharmacy on according to a specification provided by a customer (although the nature of that customer is not clear ie medical professionals only?)
- Officinal formulas - medicines compounded by a pharmacy in accordance with a pharmacopoiea for dispensing to customers of the pharmacy only.
- Homeopathic medicines - providing them meet specific requirements.
This law allows the import of homeopathic medicines into Norway as long as they are registered in another EEA member country for a period of seven years. It also creates a Simplified Scheme for the registration of homeopathic medicines in the same manner as EU regulations. Norway does not have any homeopathic medicine manufacturers itself.
It places restrictions on the advertising of homeopathic medicines. As no claims are permitted, essential only flat lists are permitted.
Although the law provides exemptions for doctors and dentists to obtain medicines other than authorised/registered in Norway, in the case of homeopathic medicines it only allows those registered in other EEA member states.
It's also worth pointing out that Norway takes a strong line on the personal importation of medicines - effectively only allowing what is authorised/registered in Norway . Medicines can be seized and destroyed.
What is about to happen?
The seven year period is about to expire on 12/01/2017. The Statens legemeddelverk (SLV) will publish a list of homeopathic medicines registered up to that point. After a three month transition period, anything not on that list will not be permitted to be sold. How many registered homeopathic medicines will be on that list is unknown. Whilst the registration fees are set at a nominal level, the preparation of documentation is onerous (even if SLV will accept English). Norway is a small market and homeopathy is much less common than some other EEA member states. It does not seem likely that many products will be registered.
The supply of homeopathic medicines could be restricted to a handful of products. This has implications for both lay and medical homeopaths. It could make practice very difficult if not impossible.