VOICE Ireland’s ongoing question for the Irish Medicine Board is a simple and straightforward one: how come the IMB allows this State to add what it sees as an unlicensed medicine into the people’s drinking water supply?

I mean to say that would seem to be a fair enough sort of question. The IMB is after all the State-funded watchdog in this area. It has the power and the resources and the authority to prevent unlicensed medicine being offered to an unsuspecting public. And let us be fair about this too. By and large our IMB does an excellent job of safeguarding us from unlicensed impostors.

Look at St John’s Wort capsules for example. Where are they now? They are gone for all time, banished. With one mighty sweep of the powerful arm of our IMB, every shelf in every health food store right across the land has been swept bare of all products containing hypericum, the active ingredient of St John’s Wort. Likewise Ginkgo is gone, banished it seems for all time by the all-powerful Medicines Board. It matters not at all that these ancient herbs grow freely in your average back garden and that with a little ingenuity a fellow might brew up a hypericum tea or a pure Ginkgo leaf extract.

Nor does it seem to matter that medicinal forms of these herbal remedies are freely available one click away on the Internet. No, all the IMB did was clear the health food stores of these products and let the devil take the hindmost after that.

So what about IMB’s answer to the simple question posed by Robert Pocock of VOICE about fluoride not being licensed by it and therefore, by its own definition, surely an illegal medicinal product? I have the IMB’s answer here in front of me dated some time back and headed: Re: Hydrofluorosilicic acid in drinking water.

The second paragraph of this letter is quite extraordinary, and reads: “Having considered the matter, the IMB does not consider tap water to meet the definition of a medicinal product under Article 1 of Directive 2001/83/EC as amended.”

That’s fine, except that nobody ever said that tap water was a medicinal product in the first place and introducing this red herring here is surely misleading.

It should hardly be necessary for one to have to point out the following to the IMB but apparently it might be: a medicinal product usually comprises two components – the active ingredient and excipients. Excepients are inactive substances used as carriers for the active ingredient to aid in the manufacture and absorption of the medicinal product.

So, taking the medicinal product that fluoridated drinking water most certainly is, given to humans to prevent the disease, dental caries, the excepient is tap water and the active ingredient is hydrofluorosilicic acid.

Together, I would contend, they are a medicinal product and in this case uniquely an unlicensed medicinal product and therefore an unauthorised medicinal product and no amount of obfuscation or shoals of red herrings will alter that fact.

Elsewhere the IMB has argued that since fluoridation is provided for by legislation, then it cannot be illegal. The Oireachtas enacted the Act allowing for the fluoridation of Irish drinking water in 1960 almost 40 years before the IMB came into being.

Many things, like St John’s Wort and Ginkgo, were legal then and seem to be illegal now. Moreover the statutory instrument under which the IMB draws its powers seems to allow for no exceptions on the bases of historical legislation, nor should it.

Fluoridated drinking water seems to be a no-go area for the IMB. It would be nice if the IMB would just come out and say that, rather than seemingly introducing shoals of red herrings and in my opinion seemingly ducking the issue at every hand’s turn.