Honey Treatment Amounts to Sweet Nothing
James Randerson, The Guardian (UK), 8/12/2008
A "new hope" for cancer sufferers or a jar of exorbitantly expensive honey? How the makers of Life Mel prey on the fear and desperation of patients
Sex sells. But fear, pain and desperation sell even more effectively...
What does Life Mel do? The honey - which is produced by Holywell Health - supposedly targets neutropenia, a side-effect of chemotherapy in which the level of a particular class of white blood cells drops, leaving the patient open to infection. But this dangerous side-effect of chemotherapy could disappear, the company claims, if you purchase a pot of special honey - a bargain at £37.50.
Of course, no quack remedy would be complete without a celebrity endorsement. In this case, it is the actress Rebekah Gibbs who plays hospital technician Nina Farr in the BBC drama Casualty. Gibbs was diagnosed as having breast cancer in January and since April has been writing a diary about her treatment for the Mirror.
After seeing her newspaper column, the PR folks for Life Mel kindly sent her agent some sample pots of their honey to try, and in a subsequent column and video on the Mirror's website she told her reader about it.
This week I've started taking a special honey. It's called Life Mel and at more than £37.50 a pop it isn't cheap, but it's supposed to work wonders ... I'm taking two teaspoons per day and so far so good, I figure there's no harm done as it's so natural.
Her agent said that Gibbs is not being paid to promote the product.
Natural it might be, but does Life Mel actually work? The company's PR people claim that they have received hundreds of positive accounts from patients. "Life Mel constantly receives letters and phone calls from people who have tried the product and felt the benefits," said Carolanne Bamford. Hollywell Health claims to have sold more than 20,000 jars.
But anecdotes are meaningless as evidence. That is why we don't allow companies to sell drug treatments based on the say-so of a handful of patients who claim to have got better…