clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

FDA may crack down on junk homeopathic 'remedies'

New, 47 comments

Hearings to reconsider policy the FDA has had since 1988

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The FDA is spending today and tomorrow asking for input on how to deal with homeopathic "remedies," concoctions with no proof they work that haven't faced the scrutiny of regular medicine.

"There is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition."

Homeopathy operates under the idea that heavily diluted substances in the body can trigger a response that fights disease, but most scientists have called the idea bunk. "There is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition," the NIH say, bluntly.

Still, the FDA has allowed homeopathic remedies to be sold under a different set of rules than normal medicines. While prescription and over-the-counter drugs are approved before they're sold, the FDA doesn't usually evaluate the safety or effectiveness of homeopathic remedies, and new regulations could endanger popular products sold in stores, like cold remedy Zicam, Hyland's sleep aids, and various supplements. The CDC estimates that's a huge market: Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic treatments in 2007.

The FDA hasn't reviewed that policy since 1988, but this week it's taking another look, asking for public comments — more than 1,100 have piled up — and holding hearings from scientists and the homeopathy industry. The testimonies are already available, and split along predictable lines: homeopathy advocates attempting to argue that only some products cause problems, while scientists point out the potential for confusion in the current system.

"Allowing homeopathic remedies to sit side by side with conventional drugs that have undergone FDA scrutiny as over‐the‐counter drugs is inherently misleading," Georgetown associate professor Adriane Fugh‐Berman writes.