FDA to look into whether it should be regulating homeopathies

Here’s news that will be of interest to those of you who try to eskew Western medicine where possible in favor of more tradition (others would say unproven) remedies: The FDA this week will look into whether it should be regulating these medicines.

NPR dove deep into the issue Monday morning:

Homeopathic medicine has long been controversial. It’s based on an idea known as “like cures like,” which means if you give somebody a dose of a substance — such as a plant or a mineral — that can cause the symptoms of their illness, it can, in theory, cure that illness if the substance has been diluted so much that it’s essentially no longer in the dose.

Critics say those ideas are nonsense, and that study after study has failed to find any evidence that homeopathy works.

“Homeopathy is an excellent example of the purest form of pseudoscience,” saysSteven Novella, a neurologist at Yale and executive editor of the website Science-Based Medicine. “These are principles that are not based upon science.”

Novella thinks consumers are wasting their money on homeopathic remedies. The cost of such treatments vary, with some over-the-counter products costing less than $10.

Some of the costs, such as visits to doctors and the therapies they prescribe, may be covered by insurance. But Novella says with so many people using homeopathic remedies, the costs add up.

There’s also some concern that homeopathic remedies could be dangerous if they’re contaminated or not completely diluted, or even if they simply don’t work.

As NPR makes clear, this doesn’t mean regulation is on the horizon. The FDA just is seeking some information of what, if anything, it might or ought to do. But I’m guessing the hearings will be pretty high energy.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “FDA to look into whether it should be regulating homeopathies”

  1. The idea of the FDA regulating a method of administering placebo is an insanely scary prospect, and Homeopathy is just that – a skillful way of administering placebo.

    Before all you Homeopathy fans out there get your knickers in a twist, please understand that placebo is not a dirty word. LOTS of natural remedies (including Yoga Therapy) work primarily because of the power of the mind and emotions to produce outcomes – both positive and negative. One can believe in the results without necessarily believing in the stories a practitioner will tell you about why the results are happening. This nonsense about the “energy” of a substance being preserved in a sugar pill who’s level of dilution insures not a single molecule of the chemical remains is just that – a story – with not a shred of actual science to back it up.

    Nevertheless, Homeopathy works. All the double-blind studies have proven is that it doesn’t work any better than placebo, which is pretty powerful – in the realm of 50 to 75 percent effective. If you had a remedy that could produce that level of positive results, it would be criminal to not use it. It would be even more criminal for the government to classify it as a medical treatment worthy of regulating.

    1. Hi Leslie.

      We definitely agree about the power of the placebo effect. I think in this case, though, the issue is just what is in these homeopathic pills and tinctures — we just saw GNC supplements were mislabeled. That’s not a perfect match/example, but if these are being provided by a doctor (as was the case with the main person in the NPR story) it sure feels like the FDA has jurisdiction.

      But, yes, at the same time, if these are all pills and bottles with nothing “active” in them, then it seems like the FDA has no role. It may end up saying that, but also saying that homepathy needs to be careful what claims it makes.

      We’ll see. (I also feel like this came close to my thinking about U.S.-wide yoga regulation…)


  2. Any medicine that is “proven” to work based on statistical studies (you can blind them as many times you want) is not based on science.
    It is pseudo-science; may be lower end of the spectrum – nevertheless is.
    No respect for being elitist about it.

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