The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knocked the stuffing out of homeopathic drug company Terra-Medica last week, when the regulatory agency announced that a number of its "natural" remedies contained actual drugs.

According to Wired UK, the FDA found that 56 lots of the company's drugs contained the antibiotic penicillin and its derivatives. But Terra-Medica's product information clearly states that their remedies are antibiotic-free. This is problematic because a number of people are allergic to penicillin, and the concentrations found in the products are high enough to spark a reaction.

Moreover, Wired UK points out that homeopathy is based on the idea that medicinal products should only be present at extremely low or undetectable levels because these concentrations can prompt the body to "heal itself." This is largely how homeopathic products manage to evade most of the FDA's oversight because, in theory, these drugs don't contain active ingredients (the FDA currently checks the drugs for ingredient purity and packaging accuracy, not effectiveness).

Voluntary recall

Following the FDA's report, Washington state-based Terra-Medica is voluntarily recalling batches of its products. Among them are remedies called Pleo-Fort, Pleo-Quent, and Pleo-Ex — three products that the company claims can relieve everything from bloating to viral conditions, such as meningitis and shingles.

This sort of recall doesn't bode well for homeopathy as a whole. If the FDA starts to find that some companies are including active ingredients in their formulas, it might have to look at the remedies more closely. Doing so would be tough for both the FDA and the companies, because checking a drug's effectiveness usually means comparing it to its competitors, as well as placebos. And, according to a 2010 report from the British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, homeopathic drugs are about as effective as sugar pills.