FDA & FTC mull homeopathy's future

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I’m not sure of AUS and UK.

But in the US…the term Homeopathic at a drug store is NOT harmless inert things.

Often it has very active ingredients. Some helpful and some harmful.

For example “Zicam” a cold medicine that’s labeled in a US as “Homeopathic” has very active levels of ZINC. So much that their was a class action lawsuit because it destroyed people’s sense of smell and taste. Sometimes permanently.

Other things that are classified as homeopathy are things like Tea tree oil which is a very active antibiotic and antifungal.
In the us the term has far more meaning legally at the drug store than harmless diluted herb water.

I found this out the hard way with Ziacam. I was taking it and noticed things my sense of taste and smell was disapearing. I stopped it and found out it was pretty much vicious. “Homeopathic” in the US does not mean harmless. (this was before the class action suit)

It also doesn’t mean worthless…as things like slippery elm cough drops and tea tree oil for dandruff are labeled homeopathy in the US.


Sounds like a problem of categories more than anything else. I don’t know much about homeopathy, but I know that normal concentrations of Zicam, slippery elm, and tea tree oil don’t qualify. I have never heard of them being sold as homeopathic, and wonder if this was the manufacturers or the stores who were offering them for sale this way.

EDIT: sure enough, the Wackipedia article for Zicam says that it was marketed as a homeopathic product, which it obviously isn’t.


Zicam is a case of mislabelling, it contains non-homeopathic levels of zinc and it’s not a homeopathic medicine. If the FDA/FTC is concerned, just ensure that the level of dilution is sufficient that no pharmacologically active ingredients are present above the level of detection by standard analytic procedures, and that the inactive ingredients are lactose, or grain alcohol diluted with distilled water. Banning yet another class of compounds - these having no known pharmacologically-active ingredients - is as stupid and as offensive as the Federal War on Drugs and the prohibition of marijuana.

Who’s talking about banning them? I thought the plan was to make sure homoeopathic remedies were subject to the same labelling and justification of claims as other medicines?


This is just a stalking horse for the war on sugar pills!


Homoeopathy; the less support it has, the stronger it gets.


The strength of belief in homoeopathy and other alternative cures owes as much to crunchy yuppy woo and handwaving as it does to the average Americans inability to access real medicine, even with the new national health system. Like the poorest of the poor in the deepest slums of the third world when real medicine is inaccessible or so expensive access will likely lead to homelessness in the short term the witch doctor’s cure is all that is available.
People almost always get better from a bruise or flu, taking the $30 placebo correlates with getting better even if it has nothing to do with the causation, that builds faith, just like going to a real doctor does.
Sadly while $30 should be a reasonable price to pay for stitches or penicillin it is instead wasted on cake sprinkles and risking severe consequences when the real cures cost an uninsured person hundreds of dollars or more.
(edit)IMHO a person should be able to buy everything from birth control pills, to morphine, penicillin, to methamphetamine, surgical glue, to ketamine after speaking to a pharmacist who would give the best guidance he could, though I also believe that medical care should be free and 100% private, illegal to disclose to any non-medical party. Having access to real healthcare and meds, even ones for the purpose of abuse, would eliminate the criminality and only leave the productivity and health factors to the drug epidemic and drive most of the woo out of the market.


Unfortunately, “homeopathic” in the USA is defined by statute to be anything in the homeopathic formulary (I forget who maintains it, but in effect they have unregulated statutory powers.) Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure to get stuff listed because it’s an instant end run on all sorts of health and safety regulations.

And it doesn’t matter what the concentrattions are, either – Zicam was 10% zinc, but that just means it’s “homeopathic 1X.”


But it is! It’s a 1X homeopathic zinc preparation. There is nothing in the legal definition of “homeopathy” that requires high dilutions. You could, for instance, have a 1% solution of belladonna extract (it’s in their pharmacopia) and it would indeed be “homeopathic.” Also lethal in more than trivial amounts, but them’s the breaks.


What do legal definitions have to do with reality? I do a fair amount of reading with regards to law, and most of them are in no way intended to be clear or accurate. It is the definitions internal to homeopathy itself which identity the practice with more (or, if you prefer, “high”) dilution. And this information is meaningless without further description. I would be happy to take 1% of some belladonna dosages, but not others.

In any case, I think it’s people’s responsibilities to know what they put in their bodies, so homework is always required. Hopefully better labelling will facilitate this. The best thing to happen to medicine (and commerce generally) would be to eliminate advertising. Then instead of learning about the hype of countless “claims”, people can just find out what things actually are and decide for themselves.

Well, for starts they control what gets on the shelves and how they’re labeled. Which in turn controls what gets into people’s bodies.

To me, that’s a very important slice of “reality.”

The state has no business trying to “control” what is on the shelves or what people take. If substances are labelled accurately, then it is people’s responsibility to use this information to make their own decisions. The social responsibility is to be empirical.

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What was that about “reality?”

Your opinion regarding what the State should or should not do (which I do not dispute at this time) has, as you put it above, nothing to do with the reality of what gets into people’s bodies in the UK, Australia, or the USA for the forseeable future.

Within the scope of the possible, even something as limp as requiring new labeling is pretty ambitious. Or have you heard of the (successful) lawsuit by tobacco companies against Australian labeling of tobacco products under “trade” treaties?

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If nothing else, this hearing might help close this particular bizarre legal loophole we have on our drugstore shelves in America – one where a product can trumpet on its package “CURES COLDS AND BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM! PREVENTS INFECTION!” and then in mouse-type on the back include the all-important “this product has not been evaluated by the FDA and will not cure or prevent any disease”. It seems you can make any health claim you like as long as you disclaim it in tiny print.


The state’s interest in controlling these does not necessarily amount to anything either. The government is always a minority opinion.

I remember reading something about it. I still say that commerce itself is the problem.

I looked at a bottle of homeopathic backache pills once. The directions were to take TWO four times per day.

Even though the dilutions were sufficient to guarantee that there was no active ingredient in the pills, I still didn’t buy them, as I didn’t want to risk a homeopathic overdose.


No, no, no. A mild overdose would be taking one tenth of a pill, twice a year.

Not buying them actually carries the HIGHEST possible risk of a homeopathic overdose.


How about something like this:


The mere existence of this product category is a disgrace to humanity. That it is allowed to be advertised and touted as a cure or a treatment for any condition is outrageous.