Wednesday 9 October 2013

Cassation III: Defending the Rundown

Vitamins used in Scientology's Purification Rundown are no more medicines than sweets or beauty products, a Scientology lawyer told France's top court.

Next up for Scientology was Maître Jean-Jacques Gatineau, whose job it was to attack the convictions for illegal practice of pharmacy related to Scientology's Purification Rundown.1

The Rundown is the controversial programme of aerobic exercise, long sessions in a sauna and massive doses of vitamins and minerals. It was devised by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Gatineau's client Aline Fabre, who supervised the Purification Rundown at the Celebrity Centre, was fined 10,000 euros for the illegal practice of pharmacy on appeal: 2,000 more than her original sentence.

He started by arguing that the idea the pharmaceutical profession had a monopoly in this area was a dangerous sophistry – and one that had been overturned at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.2

This trial was a witchhunt against the Church of Scientology, which had never sold or recommended the ingestion of medicines, he added.

“Vitamins are the only products in question here.”

The media never had any problem with widely sold health and beauty products, he said.

The National Council of the Order of Pharmacists had argued that the products Scientology was using were defined as medicines under European law by presentation and function, said Gatineau.

In that case, he said, so were the popular Haribo sweets that looked like pills; so too was the modern tradition of molecular cuisine.

Since the products used in Scientology's Purification Rundown treated no clearly identified illness, one could not say they were presented as medicines, he argued.

A look at the labelling from G&G, the company that supplied the vitamins used for the Rundown, confirmed that, he said: they said nothing at all about treating any illness.

The labels described health benefits, not cures for ailments. “You cannot deduce from these notices that they are medicines by presentation,” he insisted.

Nor could these vitamins be described as medicines by function under the restrictive interpretation set by EU law, he said.

Lawyers for the prosecution had argued that these vitamins, taken in excessive quantities, could harm people, he reminded the court.

“But one could say the same of alcohol – and that is not distributed by pharmacies.”

The Court of Appeal had followed the line taken by AFSSAPS, France's health products watchdog, that the vitamins used during the Purification Rundown counted as medicines because their excessive consumption could harm those taking them, he recalled.3

But he insisted: “There is nothing here that allows one to say this was the illegal exercise of pharmacy. These were food supplements.

“Just because the doses were higher than the daily recommended dose did not make them medicines.”

As for his client, the defendant Fabre, who had supervised the running of the Rundown: she had not actually sold the products in question. “She just recommended where they could be bought.” So her conviction for the illegal practice of pharmacy was not valid, he said.

Gatineau also dealt briefly with the convictions of fraud against individual Scientologists; and organised fraud against the two Scientology organisations that ran its Paris operations.

Under French law such a conviction applied to an organisation that had been created with the sole intention of carrying out fraud. But Scientologie Espace Librarie (SEL) had been set up to sell Scientology books, he said.

“You can't reasonably consider that the fact that they sell books should be equivalent to organised fraud,” he argued.

Closing, Gatineau argued that the role of salesman Didier Michaux, SEL's star salesman, was far less senior than the prosecution had suggested. He was not, as the prosecuting lawyers had insisted, the de facto manager there.

For the pharmacists

Maître Damien Célice replied for the National Council of the Order of Pharmacists (CNOP).4

A key question relating to the conviction for illegal practice of pharmacy was whether the products that Aline Fabre had dispensed were mere food supplements – as the defence contended – or medicines.

The health products watchdog AFSSAPS had said that how much you took, the dosage of a product, changed the physical effect it had on people.

One of Scientology's own witnesses, Dr David Roots, had testified as to the therapeutic qualities of the products.5 Hubbard himself, who had devised the Purification Rundown, made therapeutic claims for it in his book, Clear Body, Clear Mind.

So despite what the defence might argue, these were medicines by presentation.

The other question was whether they were medicines by their function.

“The experts' reports are clear,” he said. “They said... that the massive character of these doses necessarily had a notable physical effect on people. There was even a risk of intoxication.”

So never mind the talk of food supplements: first and foremost they were being used as medicines.

The next relevant issue, so far as the defendant Fabre was concerned, was whether these medicines were dispensed.

Fabre was in charge of the Rundown, even if she had no medical qualifications – nor any in pharmacy. She may not have decided on the doses, which she told the court were set out in Hubbard's writings, he said. “But she dispensed advice to those doing the Purification Rundown.”

What then was the difference between the work of a pharmacist and what Mme Fabre had been doing?

He dismissed as an “artifice”the argument that Fabre had not sold these products to clients but had merely told people where they could be bought. It certainly had not fooled the Court of Appeal, he said.

“Dispensing is not just distributing. It is also to give advice and adapting doses according to individuals,” he said – and that was just what Fabre had done.

“The presentation and dispensation go together in a system where a patient is taken in charge for a treatment,” he continued.

And Hubbard's own writings on the process made it clear what the Rundown was intended to do.

Next up: 'Une Entreprise Crapuleuse'
1   If there were three lawyers pleading Scientology's case in particular, it is simply because they represented different defendants among those appealing, the individuals and the groups.
2   It was not clear exactly which case he was referring to here, but a quick glance at the ECJ's website shows that in December 2010 the court fined France's ONP and its governing bodies five million euros “for restrictions on competition in the French clinical analysis market”. (“Antitrust: the Commission rules against the Ordre national des pharmaciens for restrictions on competition in the French clinical analysis market” The ECJ, the judicial arm of the European Union, ensures that EU law is applied across the member states.
3   AFSSAPS: L'Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé (the French Agency for the Safety of Health Products).
4   Le Conseil National de l'Ordre des Pharmaciens. In fact, Célice's intervention came a little later in the session, following Claire Waquet, the lawyer for the counter-cult group UNADFI. For obvious reasons however, I am running these two presentations together.
5   For his testimony at the original trial, see “A Doctor Backs the Rundown” elsewhere at this site.


  1. The closing para is exactly right. Hubbard does make therapeutic claims for this treatment. So there.

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