The homeopathy market is huge. In the US alone, the market for “home remedies” and homeopathic cures was estimated at around $386 million in 2015.
As nurses, we’re well aware of the terrible consequences that homeopathic medicine can have on our patients. While there are those who argue that homeopathy is mostly harmless, allowing patients to treat themselves with homeopathic cures goes against the first maxim of the Hippocratic oath – “First, do no harm”.
And homeopathy is harmful. A good example of the danger of homeopathy is Apple founder Steve Jobs.
After being diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor in 2003, he eschewed traditional surgical methods and chemotherapy, instead turning to a fruit-based diet, acupuncture sessions, and other homeopathic remedies. And in 2011, before he died, Mr. Jobs realized he had made a mistake – but that it was too late to turn to medically-proven treatment methods.
Thankfully, the FTC has begun to implement new laws and regulations related to the marketing claims of homeopathic products.
FTC sections 5 and 12, as laid out in this document, will help prevent companies and individuals who sell over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic drugs from misrepresenting the effects and efficacy of their products.
New Regulations Crack Down On Misleading Marketing Claims
For years, sellers of homeopathic remedies used misleading marketing claims to say that their products were an alternative to medicine.
This practice traces back to the 1700s when enterprising businessmen sold “elixirs” “cure-alls”, and other alternative medicines to an unwitting populace who were in desperate need of legitimate medical treatment.
These “snake oil” salesmen claimed that their products could cure everything from toothaches to consumption, to pneumonia, and much more. And, (surprise!) – their products didn’t work.
Even today, homeopathic medicine is often sold by purveyors as a legitimate alternative to “traditional” medicine – despite the fact that there is no evidence supporting the efficacy of homeopathic medicines.
These new FTC regulations would help fight this problem. Though homeopathic remedies would not immediately disappear, sections 5 and 12 of the new FTC regulations would prevent them from being advertised as “medicine” – or from claiming any health benefits without supplying scientifically-reviewed, fact-based evidence.
And evidence? That’s one thing that homeopathy lacks.
The Evidence Is Stacked Against Homeopathic Remedies
Over the years, there have been hundreds of studies focused on debunking the bogus health claims of homeopathic medicine. The most thorough review of such studies was released by the Australian government in 2016.
Published in 2015, this comprehensive PDF studies dozens of reports, studies, and documents related to the treatment of common medical conditions through homeopathic cures.
Their findings? Homeopathy is not a legitimate treatment method for any condition. The report further went on to state that individuals who turned to alternative medicine – instead of seeking legitimate, scientifically-proven help – were putting themselves at risk, and wasting both their time and money.
Despite this, homeopathic remedies continue to spread throughout the world – and that’s one of the reasons that the US government has taken action to reduce the harm caused by homeopathic medicines.
Homeopathic Remedies Won’t Disappear – But They Can’t Be Sold As “Medicine”
There is no way to completely eliminate homeopathic products from the market. However, this new FTC guideline helps to reduce the likelihood of consumers being misled by false advertising.
Essentially, homeopathic remedies that are sold must be advertised honestly. If an advertisement for a homeopathic remedy communicates that:
- There is no true scientific evidence that the product works, and
- The products claims are based on traditional folk remedies or techniques not recommended by modern experts
If both of these facts are clearly communicated on a homeopathic product, they can still be marketed to the public. However, companies who do not abide by these regulations when labeling, advertising, and marketing their products can now be subjected to heavy fines, lawsuits, and more.
These New FTC Guidelines Are A Step In The Right Direction
It will likely be impossible to truly eliminate homeopathy from the world of modern medicine. It’s been around since the 1700s – and there’s a reason for that. No matter how hard the medical community pushes to eliminate homeopathy, there will always be those who are unwilling or unable to listen to us.
Because of this, steps must be taken to minimize the damage that homeopathy can have on the health of the population – and these new FTC guidelines are certainly a great place to start.
What do you think? Have these new homeopathy regulations gone too far – or not far enough? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear your opinion!