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FTC finally regulates homeopathic drugs

Dating back to the late 1700s, the theory of treating diseases with homeopathy is based on an idea that diseases can be treated with tiny doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease. Despite being rooted in superstition, ritual and sympathetic magic; the laws devised by the founderís ideas are still in use by homeopaths today.In todayís world of homeopathy, most remedies are so diluted that they no longer contain detectable levels of the initial substance, according to the Federal Trade Commission. This is why proponents have generally claimed that homeopathy products are safe.After homeopathy was introduced in the United States in the 1800s, homeopathic products were often offered in formulations tailored for individual users. In the 1970s, homeopathic products began to be sold in small health food stores and independent drugstores. By the late 1990s, mass-market formulations were sold nationwide in major retail stores. What used to be a multimillion-dollar market a few decades ago is now more than a billion-dollar market.These remedies are not only used for human ailments, but also you will find them promoted for use in your pets, either by stores marketing the products, or by veterinarians who have led themselves to believe these things are effective without evidence of proof. The use of homeopathy in veterinary medicine is fairly rare because as practitioners we are science and evidence based in our training and our thinking. However, you will find those that have convinced themselves, and their clients, that these remedies work – ignoring the complete lack of evidence.The fact that these remedies can be sold without the same level of proof required by any other medication has baffled scientists and medical practitioners for decades. However, this has just changed dramatically. In late 2016, the Federal Trade Commission announced its intent to pursue manufacturers of over-the-counter homeopathy remedies who cannot back up health claims with scientific evidence.On Nov. 15, 2016, the FTC issued a new†policy statement that includes the following: ì(FTC) will hold efficacy and safety claims for OTC (over-the-counter) homeopathic drugs to the same standard as other products making similar claims.î The companies that market these remedies “must have competent and reliable scientific evidence for health-related claims, including claims that a product can treat specific conditions.î This alone could have devastating effects on the homeopathy production industry, as they simply will not be able to show they have reliable scientific evidence for the claims they make.Under the new policy, the FTC states that making a case for efficacy based on traditional theories – without any modern scientific evidence – would amount to a misleading claim that would be illegal.If they wish to continue to market these products, the makers of these remedies must clearly note on the label or in ads that “there is no scientific evidence that the product works” or “that the product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.”The homeopathy industry now has annual sales of more than $1 billion. It is estimated that some 7,000 homeopathic medicines are registered with the Federal Drug Administration, but that only 1,000 are routinely marketed, and fewer than 100 are mass marketed. That is a huge return on 100 products. The $1 billion market is growing about 5 percent a year, and the industry has been allowed to run completely unregulated for hundreds of years.With that much money involved, you can bet there will be challenges and enforcement actions; however, this new policy statement contains such strong wording that the industry must be worried. Additionally, practitioners who tout the benefits of these remedies must also be concerned about the shadow cast on their recommendations to clients and patients.Many now suspect that enforcement of this policy will be limited if not non-existent, as many people and practitioners will continue to be believers, even in the face of a clear lack of evidence (not observations or testimonials, but actual, factual evidence). However, the ruling at least shows that governmental agencies have finally heard the outcries of scientists and skeptics.In summary, over-the-counter homeopathic drugs must be treated the same as any over-the-counter medication. (You would think this should be obvious ñ- but this has never been the case.) Accordingly, unqualified disease claims made for homeopathic drugs must be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Based on the concept of homeopathy, this will be practically impossible.Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.

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