FDA May Start Regulating Homeopathy

Apr 21, 2015

By Sarah Fecht

Homeopathy–an alternative theory of medicine founded on the notion that “like cures like”–has so far gotten a free pass in the U.S. Although studies suggest homeopathic treatments don’t work, the FDA allows them to be sold without testing and without approval from regulators. This week, the agency is re-evaluating that stance. Over two days of hearings, the FDA will listen to public comment as to whether homeopathic remedies should be tested with the same rigorousness as regular over-the-counter drugs.

At the heart of homeopathic medicine are two notions that are not based upon science: the first is that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people. The second is that lower doses of a substance produce greater effects. The National Institutes of Health note that “several key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics,” and that “many homeopathic remedies are so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain.”

In homeopathic potency scales, the remedy is diluted by a factor of 10 at each stage (notated by the “X” here). So in this diagram, the 21X starting potion has been diluted 10^21 times.

“Homeopathy is an excellent example of the purest form of pseudoscience,” Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist and editor of the website Science-Based Medicine, tells NPR.

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11 comments on “FDA May Start Regulating Homeopathy

  • ” Over two days of hearings, the FDA will listen to public comment ”

    Why? Is this a popularity contest or is this going to be the result of scientific methodology?

    If the public at these hearing were all trained in this area that would be another thing, but I suspect quacks are welcome here. Hopefully their insanity will not be given the same weight as the evidence here.

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  • We would not permit the sale of rat poison that contained just sugar. It doesn’t kill rats. It is deceptive packaging.

    Homeopathy is the same thing. It does not do anything. It has never been demonstrated to work. It couldn’t. It is just placebo.

    It is simple corruption that lets it persist.

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  • Why would the public have a say in this?
    i.e. If Big Pharma releases a new drug, is the FDA going to put it to a vote in a public forum whether or not to regulate it?
    Or is the public (as opposed to lawyers and medical experts) going to debate whether this is in fact a drug or not?

    1) It’s an inactive placebo i.e. fraudulent

    2) It’s an active drug i.e. should be subject to FDA regulation like any other

    So if any huckster wants to argue to the FDA that it’s not (2), they’re confessing to (1).

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  • 5
    aroundtown says:

    This news wouldn’t be of interest to a Rhino. I see this as nothing more than a licensing agenda, a way to require payment for a shingle to be a practicing snake oil salesman. Good way to get a cut is to regulate the industry and then forget about the efficacy of the proffered products. Eating fingernail clippings would be just as effective in stirring your package as powdered rhino horn would be, but will people listen, no way. The Rhino will be hunted to extinction for nothing.

    The Rhino’s demise might be a singular passionate concern for me but there are tons more just like it in the homeopathy business. Pissing money away on magic pills is not going to help anyone.

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  • I certainly appreciate evidence based medicine, but if I am dying of cancer and there are anecdotal successes with a homeopathic alternative medicine, then I would consider trying it….

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  • 7
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I wouldn’t. And here’s why.

    I can appreciate that someone with terminal cancer for whom all medical treatments have failed (chemo, radio-therapy) and surgery is not an option would be willing to try alternative treatments. The rationale behind it is perfectly understandable: one has basically nothing to lose. Except…

    Going for a treatment like homeopathy which is demonstrably ineffective will only accomplish three things: a) waste one’s time an money b) give the patient and his loved ones false hope c) further legitimize quackery and the charlatans who make a living of it.

    Stealing and lying are both immoral by secular standards and sins by Christian standards are they not? I for one would not want to leave this life in the act of empowering these thieves and mountebanks. My legacy would be irremediably soiled by such a thoughtless and selfish act (something Christians usually refer to as “dying in sin”)… I would in effect be robbing myself of my sole opportunity to face death with honesty and courage and leave this world with a clean conscience.

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  • @NNA, that's a pretty strong argument, but what if a certain homeopathic treatment was demonstrably effective, or even in grey area?

    Off-topic content removed by moderator.

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  • RonHill
    Apr 22, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    @NNA, that’s a pretty strong argument, but what if a certain homeopathic treatment was demonstrably effective, or even in grey area?

    Homeopathic “remedies” are pure placebo.
    The “active ingredients in fluids are effectively water and in the pills sugar , each with the POSSIBILITY of the odd molecule of something else.

    People have died of cancers after being persuaded by quacks to take “alternatives” in place of regular prescribed medications.

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  • There’s a name for alternative medicines that have been proven to work. It’s called medicine.

    Homeopathic ‘remedies’ are no different than water that you drink from a tap. If one has seemingly had a positive effect on a group of people then that is just statistical probability and coincidence.

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  • It seems that when it comes to regulating medicines, drugs, and quack potions, most governments are pretty useless!


    Just a quarter of countries have an action plan in place to address antibiotic resistance, according to a survey by the World Health Organization.

    Most countries surveyed recently by the World Health Organization (WHO) have no national strategy to safeguard antibiotics. Globally, the sale of antibiotics over-the-counter is “widespread,” and it is rare that countries track resistance to the drugs, according to the report released yesterday (April 29).

    “[I]n most areas of the world we have no idea which drugs are being sold to whom and for what purpose. This is an appalling state of affairs,” Wellcome Trust’s Mike Turner told the BBC News. “We cannot hope to stop bacteria becoming resistant to drugs unless we have simple, basic information in place.”

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