Producers of homeopathic treatments must make proof of efficacy or specify on their product’s label that there is “no scientific evidence that the product works”, the Federal Trade Commission has decided.
Homeopathy can trace its roots back to 1796 when Samuel Hahnemann developed the theory by studying the anti-malaria properties of cinchona. The bark was traditionally believed to fight the condition due to its astringency, and Hahnemann noted that other astringent drugs do not have any use against malaria. So he tested the bark on himself, by ingesting various quantities, and found that it induced malaria-like symptoms.
From this, he concluded that “like cures like”, as he considered that “that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual, can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms.” Further work on this theory led him to the conclusion that diluting certain substances under their point of toxicity would make these solutions cure the associated symptoms.
We’ve had a lot to say over the years about just how wonderfully useless homeopathy is as a medical approach. And we’re not the only ones doing so — the practice is and has long been dismissed by any form of serious science discussion. Still, the US homeopathic remedy market is still going strong, with an estimated $3bn in sales in 2007.
Luckily, the US government has decided to step up and make it clear for customers that what they’re buying is smoke and mirrors. Homeopathic product manufacturers have to come up with proof of their products’ efficiency or clearly point out on labels that there is “no scientific evidence that the product works”.
“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 a notice, filed earlier this month by the Federal Trade Commission.
“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 FTC said that a homeopathic drug claim that is not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence “might not be deceptive if the advertisement or label where it appears effectively communicates that: 1) there is no scientific evidence that the product works; and 2) the product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.”