The Federal Trade Commission will require proof of structure/function claims made by companies selling homeopathic remedies in the U.S., the agency announced earlier this month. If the companies cannot do that, the products will be required to include a disclaimer noting that there is “no scientific evidence that the product works,” the FTC ruled.
“For the vast majority of OTC homeopathic drugs, the case for efficacy is based solely on traditional homeopathic theories and there are no valid studies using current scientific methods showing the product’s efficacy,” the FTC wrote in its decision. “Accordingly, marketing claims that such homeopathic products have a therapeutic effect lack a reasonable basis and are likely misleading in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.”
The homeopathic market is significant—according to the Independent, it’s estimated at more than $3 billion just in the U.S. Homeopathy relies on a “like cures like” approach using herbs, animal parts, and other ingredients often known to cause the condition they’re being used to treat. But the main area of concern, as noted by the FTC, is the highly diluted nature of homeopathy that renders the products little more than sugar pills. Unlike pharmaceuticals or natural herbal remedies, homeopathic formulations are so diluted they often contain no traces of the original “active” ingredients.
“Homeopathy, which dates back to the late-eighteenth century, is based on the view that disease symptoms can be treated by minute doses of substances that produce similar symptoms when provided in larger doses to healthy people,” said the FTC.
“Many homeopathic products are diluted to such an extent that they no longer contain detectable levels of the initial substance. In general, homeopathic product claims are not based on modern scientific methods and are not accepted by modern medical experts, but homeopathy nevertheless has many adherents.”
The ruling doesn’t mean homeopathic products will be pulled from store shelves anytime soon, but consumers may see stores give more shelf space to products with scientific credibility, such as herbal remedies, vitamins, and other supplements proven effective in clinical trials.
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