October 07, 2022
Large retail pharmacies face legal battles over placing homeopathic remedies in the medicine aisle with the rest of the pills.
Lawsuits originally filed in 2018 and 2019 against CVS and Walgreens, respectively, by the nonprofit Center for Inquiry (CFI) alleged that the labeling of homeopathic products as medicine was misleading and in violation of the law. on the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures (CPPA), according to Ars-Technica. Lower courts dismissed the lawsuits, but the highest district court has now decided unanimously to allow the lawsuits to continue.
While some customers may read “homeopathy” as a synonym for “natural”, homeopathy has a specific technical meaning. Homeopathy is based on an alternative interpretation of chemistry considered incompatible with contemporary science. Homeopaths believe that certain ingredients that would cause disease in healthy people, when diluted in water, give the water the ability to fight that disease. The current scientific consensus is that pills containing substances diluted in this way have no active ingredient and therefore no mechanism of action.
Skeptic and debunker James Randi frequently demonstrated the ineffectiveness of homeopathic remedies by swallowing an entire bottle of homeopathic sleep aids on stage during speeches, as he explained in a YouTube video embedded in a 2011 NPR article. The stunt inspired an annual event organized by the British skeptic group 10:23 Campaign where members overdosed homeopathic sleeping pills – sometimes at a million times the recommended dose – to demonstrate that they had no effect.
The regulatory gray era governing homeopathic remedies in the United States has sometimes had serious consequences for customer safety.
For example, in 2009 the cold remedy Zicam was marketed as homeopathic despite its high zinc content, according to a Quad City Herald article on the debacle. While in a true homeopathic remedy the zinc would have been diluted to near or beyond the point of non-existence, the amount of zinc in Zicam was concentrated enough to cause permanent anosmia (loss of smell) in some customers, leading to a US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Response.
In 2019, the FDA published a draft tips for a coercive approach to homeopathic products. No homeopathic product has been approved by the FDA.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What should be a retailer’s responsibility when it comes to informing customers about the efficacy or lack of efficacy of the products they sell? How should retail stores position homeopathic remedies and other types of remedies that may not have scientifically proven value?
“What should be the responsibility of a merchant when it comes to informing customers of the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of the products he sells?”