Boiron apologized to the threatened blogger

The CEO of Boiron Italy, Silvia Nencioni, wrote in reply to the e-mail sent by the Italian blogger Samuele Riva (he communicated the removal of the pictures of Oscillococcinum captioned in a sarcastic way) a long e-mail obliquely apologizing for the threatening tone and content of their letter and reassuring him that the company is satisfied of the removal and will not proceed to court.

Here is the piece I wrote for the BMJ on Aug 12, that contributed to spread the word all over the world wide web, and here are the text of Silvia Nencioni’s letter and an account I wrote for the website of the Italian Skeptics’ association CICAP, Queryonline (both in Italian).

The most read news on the BMJ this week: Boiron vs blog ;-)

I cannot hide my satisfaction: not only my piece about the Boiron letter is the most read item on the website of the BMJ this week, but it was even cited on Wikipedia!

BTW, I recapitulated the whole story on the website of Queryonline (CICAP, IN ITALIANO)

The English translation of the letter sent by Boiron threatening the Italian blogger

After the publication of my news piece on the British Medical Journal about the Italian blog threatened by Boiron Italy, that ignited an International Streisand effect, several colleagues all over the world wrote about the issue, and some asked for an English translation of the letter.

Here is an informal translation of the threatening letter sent by Boiron Italy to Italian blogger Samuele Riva (translated by Fabio Turone, as a service for the science writers’ community).

The letter signed by the CEO Silvia Nencioni was sent to the Internet provider, and threatened both the provider and the blogger of bringing them to court in case they did not comply immediately with their requests.

The language contains a lot of lawyer jargon, that I tried to simplify, saving the meaning: take everything with a grain of salt (and ask if I was not clear enough).

On the letterhead of Boiron Italy.

Subject: Web site «» – Libelous content – Intimation and request of removal

From the NIC (Network Information Center) it appears that you manage the domain «», registered on the name of Mr Samuele Riva.

On 13 July 2011, on the website appeared an article under the headline: «Homoeopathy: myth and legend», signed by «Samuele», libelous of homoeopathy and our Company.

In particular, in such article, announced as the first of a series, after expressing untrue and unfounded opinions on homoeopathy, appeared a photograph of two tubes of our medicine «Oscillococcinum» with the following caption: «The Nothing-at-all that according to Boiron treats flu… diluted 200K it doesn’t contain any molecule of active principle!».

Later, on 27 July 2011, another article is published under the headline «Homoeopathy: myth and legend (2)», signed by «Samuele», again libelous of homoeopathy and our medicine «Oscillococcinum».

In fact, under the picture of our medicine the following caption was published: «Seriously damages the intelligence (of those buying it)».

The article goes on citing our medicine and our Company and announcing a new article on the issue.

The publication over the Internet of such messages, untrue and derogatory of homoeopathy and our Company and our medicine seriously tarnishes the reputation of our Company, as described in the Article 595 of the penal code, and causes serious damages which could be recovered in a civil court.

You, being the manager of the blog through which those messages have been and continue to be diffused, are responsible for the control over the content, and hence you are co-responsible both from the penal and the civil point of view, of the defamation undercourse.

In the light of all that has been written, with this letter we intimate/order you – in your quality of manager and hence responsible subject for the domain – to remove immediately and, in any case, no later than 24 hours after receiving this letter all articles signed «Samuele», including every picture of our medicine and any and all references to our medicines and our company.


In addition, we warn you against any unauthorised use within your blog of pictures of our products and the logos of our Company.


We finally warn you to prevent Mr Samuele, author of the cited libelous articles, to access

Missing such acts/if you don’t comply we reserve the right of any further actions to defend our rights and interests.

With Regards

Laboratoires Boiron srl (Italian arm of Boiron)

The Chief Executive Officer

Dott.ssa Silvia Nencioni

When homoeopathy meets science journalism…


Homoeopathy multinational Boiron threatens amateur Italian blogger

Fabio Turone, Milan

A letter sent by the Italian arm of multinational company Boiron, threatening to sue an amateur blogger over remarks he made about homoeopathy, has sparked a strong internet reaction in defence of freedom of speech. Samuele Riva posted two articles on his blog, , on 13 and 27 July,which included pictures of Boiron’s blockbuster homoeopathic product Oscillococcinum, marketed as a remedy against flu symptoms. The pictures were accompanied by captions, which joked about the total absence of any active molecules in homoeopathic preparations. On 28 July Boiron fired off a letter to the internet provider, complaining that both the articles and the captions were “untrue and derogatory both of homeopathy and [the] company,” and responsible for tarnishing the company’s reputation and causing “serious damage”…

Mi fa piacere non solo di dare il mio sostegno a Samuele, ma anche di aver potuto citare la seguente frase di Piero Angela, che nel 2004 sconfisse in tribunale (sia in sede civile sia in sede penale) due associazioni di medici omeopati che pretendevano di avere a “Superquark” il diritto di replica: “The courts looked into the scientific evidence we provided, and stated that homoeopaths had no right of reply on public service TV, accepting my view that it is a science journalist’s duty to clearly distinguish between what is science and what is not”.

Ecco il punto sulla frode del falso legame tra vaccini e autismo

Il BMJ ha appena pubblicato in due puntate l’aggiornamento dell’inchiesta di Brian Deer, che spiega in dettaglio “Come il terrore sul vaccino serviva per fare soldi” (di cui ho scritto in passato)

Secrets of the MMR scare
How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money

ma anche

Secrets of the MMR scare
How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed

e l’editoriale firmato a sei mani dalla direzione della rivista, durissimo (tantopiù considerando che la legge inglese sulla diffamazione è incredibilmente favorevole ai malfattori)

Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

1. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief,
2. Jane Smith, deputy editor,
3. Harvey Marcovitch, associate editor

Emergency, Afghanistan, terrorism and the official version by the military

This is the text I am circulating through the mailing lists of colleagues science/health journalists from all over the world in the hope that the official lies about the involvement of Italian doctors in a terrorist plot in Afghanistan will be scrutinized by as many people as possible.

Hi all,

I just wanted to let you know that something worth in-depth investigation is going on in the Hellmand province in Afghanistan, where nine people – including doctors – working in the hospital run in Lashkar-gah by the Italian ngo Emergency have been arrested under unclear charges by the Afghan secret services, together with NATO troops.

Apparently they are being accused of conspiracy to kill the local governor, which is outrageously ridiculous.

The moderator of this list asked me to clarify my first post to this list, and my relationship with the ngo, sending me the link to the Reuters coverage:

As Reuters reports, NATO-ISAF forces officially denied a direct involvement, but footage from the AP proves they were there together with Afghani segret services and went directly in the room where several weapons have been immediately “discovered”.

You should be able to see the APcom video from the website of the Italian daily Corriere della sera, with commentary in Italian:

I personally know this ngo very well since its birth in 1994 (I support them but have no other links than deep respect for their work and ideals: I wrote about them several times for the BMJ and more recently about the hospital in Sudan), and I know they are pacifists and devoted to providing free health care all over the world to the civilian victims of war. They have been doing a great job for decades all over the world, so I know the idea of participating to a conspiracy to kill the local governor during a visit in the hospital is really ridiculous.

On the other hand, in recent weeks Emergency witnessed that almost 40% of the civilians wounded in the local clashes were kids, 6-7 year-old, and that in several cases the military had prevented wounded civilians from reaching the hospital.

«We are witnesses and they don’t want us there» said Gino Strada, alleging the Afghan authorities of “kidnapping” those doctors with the complicity of NATO forces.

I think and hope that at least some of you might be willing to know more, beyond the official versions that are literally unbelievable. This piece from the Times is particularly unbalanced: (the ngo has a reputation for treating all in need of medical care, not “for treating Talibans” as they write, just to say one).

This is the website with their summary of events in English ( I’ll be glad to help you get in touch with their press office in case you need help from Italy. (BTW, since I was asked to clarify: I’ll probably pitch the story to the BMJ, even though it is possible that the daily press in the UK will have it in detail).

The latest development: not only the afghans pretend that the nine arrested have confessed a plot to kill the governor, but they are accusing the three Italians of killing, years ago, the driver of an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped, Daniele Mastrogiacomo.

QUOTE from the CNN report:

“In 2007, a hospital staffer mediated between the Afghan government and the Taliban to secure the release of kidnapped Italian journalist Danielle Mastrogiacomo.

Mastrogiacomo was freed but an Afghan translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi, was killed by militants.

Afghan authorities now say the three arrested Italians killed Naqshbandi.”
(The Italian Government had officially asked Emergency to intervene.)

I was told by Emergency’s press officer a couple of hours ago that no one of the three Italians arrested was in Afghanistan at the time. One didn’t even work for Emergency yet.

Gino Strada, who heads the charity, said that he thinks they are being thrown out of the Hellmand province because of an imminent strike that will cause even more civilian casualties.

Fabio Turone, Milan

Quali medicine per l’Italia? E a che prezzo?

Di ritorno dalle vacanze ho letto nel blog di Marco Cattaneo, direttore delle “Scienze”, un post dedicato alla vicenda del licenziamento del direttore dell’Agenzia Italiana per il Farmaco (AIFA) Nello Martini, in cui giustamente si lamenta del fatto che il conflitto di interesse che tocca il Ministro Maurizio Sacconi (responsabile della sanità e marito della direttrice generale di Farmindustria, l’associazione che riunisce i produttori italiani) sia stato reso noto dalla rivista Nature ai pochi italiani che la leggono.

Io stesso lo ignoravo, per cui quando ho scritto (da un internet cafè, giacché ero in vacanza all’estero) l’articolo chiestomi sulla vicenda dal British Medical Journal ho cercato rapidamente di verificare la notizia, e non avendo conferme ho preferito sorvolare su quello specifico punto, per dedicare il poco spazio disponibile a ricordare tutte le molte cose importanti realizzate dall’AIFA, in pochi anni, sotto la direzione di Nello Martini.

Quello che emerge è il progetto in parte già dichiarato dal governo di sottrarre la gestione della spesa farmaceutica a un organo che fin qui si è dimostrato indipendente, e che ha basato le proprie decisioni sui prezzi dei farmaci su valutazioni tecniche, anche grazie a ricerche innovative che ha esso stesso finanziato e condotto. Tolta all’AIFA, questa responsabilità sarebbe affidata ad altri all’interno del Ministero (dove era quando scoppiò lo scandalo Poggiolini citato dall’editoriale di Nature).

Il problema è che se non ci sono soldi pubblici per pagare a tutti tutte le medicine esistenti (non sempre granché efficaci) io preferisco che la selezione dei farmaci da rimborsare a spese del contribuente e la trattativa sul loro prezzo di vendita sia condotta con criteri rigorosi, partendo dalle esigenze della sanità pubblica e non da quelle (anch’esse ovviamente legittime, ma meno prioritarie) dell’industria.

E preferisco che il medico mi prescriva un farmaco sulla base di informazione indipendente (come quella finanziata dall’AIFA di Martini) piuttosto che sulla base di quella sponsorizzata, perché so che anche il più onesto degli osti deve vendere il vino che ha in negozio.

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