Homeopathy took another well-deserved hit recently when the
If you are not familiar with homeopathic remedies, they come in two forms: water, and water evaporated on a tablet. As
Scientific knowledge about chemistry, physics, and biology tells us it should not work; careful testing has shown that it does not work.
To me, the most intriguing feature of homeopathy is not that people use it but rather that it can be sold at all. By all rights, a company shouldn't be able to sell a small bottle of overpriced water or sugar tablets as a remedy for what ails you. And no health care pracitioner should be allowed to prescribe it.
But they do.
Apparently because of limited resources and lack of concern about safety (it is, after all,water), the FDA abandoned homeopathic regulation (what little there was in the first place) to the homeopathic remedy manufacturers. A private agency run by and for manufacturers essentially regulates all aspects of the manufacture and sale of these products in the U.S., including the additional of new homeopathic products to the HPUS. This isn't just my opinion. In 2011, a federal district judge
The Court is unaware of what standards, if any, exists to ensure that homeopathic OTC [over the counter] drugs are safe and effective. The FDA does not impose additional standards for strength, purity, quality, safety, or efficacy on homeopathic OTC remedies. . . As evidenced by the FDA guidance documents. . .the Court concludes that the FDA has largely abdicated any role it might have had in creating standards for homeopathic OTC drugs, and has instead attempted to delegate this authority to the non-governmental organization that determines whether homeopathic substances should be included in the HPUS. In addition, the FDA explicitly states that it makes no guarantee about the safety or efficacy of homeopathic OTC drugs even if they meet the unknown standards for inclusion in the HPUS.
In other words, the fox is guarding the henhouse. Which turns out to be
This ludicrous state of affairs is aided and abetted by the public's credulous acceptance of so-called complementary, alternative and integrative medicine in the U.S. Only 3 states license homeopathic practitioners, but as the classical homeopaths have waned the naturopaths are taking up the slack.
But whether a product is legal and whether its sale to the public is fraudulent are two entirely different questions. (Viz: cigarettes.) Selling anyone a homeopathic remedy as, well, a remedy for anthing, is fraudulent, unless you are going to tell your customer (or patient) it doesn't work. That's right. It is a misrepresentation of fact to sell something that doesn't work and claim otherwise. And claiming you didn't know that it doesn't work won't get you off the hook. When what you tell your customer (or patient) is as far afield from reality as homeopathy, from a llegal standpoint, you can't claim you didn't know. Even if you believe, with all your heart, that it does work. Selling homeopathic remedies is no different from selling flying carpets. You can swear all day long that you didn't realize the laws of physics apply to you. Legally, that's a non-starter.
Plaintiffs' attorneys have discovered this and class actions against homeopathic remedy manufacturers have become something of a
Settlement is not an indication that the plaintiffs would win. It is often a business decision that the cost of litigation plus the possibility of an adverse damage award make it financially prudent to settle. In fact, most litigation does settle. Nor is it an indication that the plaintiffs' attorneys are doing anything wrong. It is not up to the plaintiffs' bar to solve the larger societal problem of having a product on the market that should never be sold in the first place. These cases are expensive to try and the attorneys are going up against defendants with resources far in excess of their clients, each of whom is generally out only a few dollars. Obviously, these settlements do not resolve the question of whether selling homeopathic remediees to the public (or prescribing them) is fraud. We know the answer to that one. It most certainly is.