CFI and Dawkins Foundation Urge FTC to Stop Homeopathy’s False Advertising

Nov 24, 2015

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The Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science are urging the Federal Trade Commission to put an end to false advertising by the manufacturers of homeopathic products. They point to the overwhelming scientific consensus that these pseudoscientific alternative remedies have no effect (other than a placebo effect) on any condition, and harm consumers who rely on them in lieu of real, science-based medicine.

CFI and the Dawkins Foundation, jointly filing comments, remind the FTC that its mandate is “to protect the American public, not to safeguard the sales of relics from the cabinets of 18th century medicine.” They argue that the FTC should use its authority to stop manufacturers from falsely advertising homeopathy’s safety or efficacy until such claims can be scientifically proven. The FTC itself has recently expressed its own concern about the harm to American consumers posed by the unsubstantiated claims of the homeopathy industry.

“Homeopathy does not work, has never been proven to work, and based on universally accepted, fundamental scientific principles, it cannot work,” said Michael De Dora, director of public policy for the Center for Inquiry. “Nonetheless, the homeopathy industry enriches itself by deceiving consumers by falsely promising to cure all manner of conditions, wasting Americans’ money and putting their health at risk.

“The FTC has a mandate to protect Americans from this kind of dangerous misinformation, and we strongly urge them to act on that mandate.”

“Homeopathy isn’t real medicine. It’s snake oil, and its manufacturers have evaded regulatory scrutiny for far too long with tragic consequences,” said Robyn Blumner, president & CEO of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. “The FTC needs to end this dangerous deception of American consumers.”

Homeopathy is an 18th century, pre-scientific concept based on the fiction that “like cures like,” compounded with the fantastical idea that water can retain a “memory” of a given substance once diluted to an infinitesimal degree, to the point that literally nothing of the original ingredient remains. Homeopathy has been entirely disproven and rejected by modern science, with zero evidence of effectiveness in treating any condition, beyond a placebo effect. In the UK, government health officials are considering blacklisting homeopathic products from the National Health Service altogether.

Yet Americans continue to throw away billions of dollars on homeopathic products, and too often use them in place of actual medicine, putting their health at serious risk with useless products such as homeopathic “vaccines” and asthma treatments.

CFI and the Dawkins Foundation point to Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act that prohibit both the “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in commerce and “the dissemination of false advertisements” related to drugs. “Homeopathic products clearly fall within these parameters,” De Dora said. “Homeopathic products are consistently advertised as both effective and safe in addressing a range of health conditions. Yet, empirical studies have illustrated decisively and repeatedly these claims are false.”

Earlier this year, the Center for Inquiry publicly testified before the Food and Drug Administration to argue that homeopathic remedies must be held to the same standards for safety and efficacy as any other drug.

The full comments are available here.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., whose mission is to remove the influence of religion in science education and public policy, and eliminate the stigma that surrounds atheism and non-belief.

7 comments on “CFI and Dawkins Foundation Urge FTC to Stop Homeopathy’s False Advertising

  • I find it mildly ironic that Richard is campaigning to ban advertising for homeopathic medicines and at the same time tweeting in support of allowing the Church of England to advertise the benefits of prayer in UK cinemas!

    Is he saying that the evidence base for prayer is sounder than that for homeopathy?

    However I think Richard is wrong about the CofE advertisement for a different reason: cinemas cannot discriminate between religions, so if they allow this advertisement they must allow all religious advertising which is likely to lead to an “arms race” similar to US political advertising. There is likely to be vocal support and derision from supporters of different religious groups in cinemas which could lead to violence and audiences being put off attending.

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  • hindmost
    Nov 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I find it mildly ironic that Richard is campaigning to ban advertising for homeopathic medicines and at the same time tweeting in support of allowing the Church of England to advertise the benefits of prayer in UK cinemas!

    Richard had further thoughts and deleted the tweet, but no doubt it will continue to be quoted by cherry-pickers for a long time.

    A foot-in-mouth moment for Richard, but we all miss some of the small print sometimes!

    @LINK ; He told the Guardian: “My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”

    When I read about this earlier elsewhere, it was clearly stated, that it was the cinema policy not to accept political or religious advertising.

    The Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the new Star-Wars film, would undoubtedly be irritating on a night out, for those who listed “Jedi” as their religion on the census forms!

    In the UK’s 2001 Census, 390,127 people – or 0.7% of the population – described themselves as Jedi. – I suspect a larger percentage go to Star-Wars films!!
    Although the number of Jedis has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the past 10 years, they are still the most selected “alternative” faith on the Census, and constitute 0.31% of all people’s stated religious affiliation in England and Wales.

    Perhaps the new film will give their numbers a boost, but could cause the cinema policy a few problems!!

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  • Thanks for this information @Alan4discussion. I guess one of the many problems with the modern media landscape is that a retraction never gets the same attention as the original comment.

    However I fear Richard has now set another hare running. The Christians will now be claiming that the Star Wars film is Jedi religious propaganda and they should have the right of reply!

    In the link you quote, he is still missing the point about potential offense: the cinemas are not concerned that this particular ad might be offensive, their concern is that the law prevents them discriminating on religious grounds, of which they would certainly be accused if they accepted this advertisement and later tried to reject another religious ad. Certainly other religions, and wealthy religious individuals, will inevitably create offensive advertising if these floodgates are opened. Note I’m not suggesting that religious films, however offensive, should be banned. We go to see films as consenting adults, ads are pushed on us without consent.

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  • The editing function timed out when I was trying to remove the second paragraph (ironically!) On more careful reading I see the Jedi comment was yours, not Richard’s and you’d already made my point in your last sentence. However I refer you to my comment about the important difference between films and paid advertising.

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  • I’m always surprised that a scientist of Richard Dawkins eminence flies off the handle so easily, and frequently; I’ve got a fairly short fuse myself, but I just kick the cat.

    Keep your shirt on ailurophiles; I speak with tongue in cheek.

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