Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023
Hyland's homeopathic teething gel.
Enlarge / Hyland’s homeopathic teething gel.

The Federal Trade Commission will no longer turn a blind eye to false or misleading claims made by makers of homeopathic medicines, according to an enforcement policy statement the commission released Tuesday.

Makers of over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic medicines and products claiming to cure or treat ailments must now clearly state in their advertising and labeling that: 1) there is no scientific evidence that they are effective, and 2 ) that all claims of effectiveness are based only on homeopathic theories, which are not accepted by modern medical experts.

In its statement, the FTC asserted that it has long had the authority to crack down on false and misleading claims. The same goes for the decades after the Food and Drug Administration allowed homeopathic products to be marketed without having been proven to be effective. “Nevertheless, in the decades since the Commission announced in 1972 that objective product claims must be substantiated, the FTC has rarely challenged misleading claims for products that were homeopathic or purportedly homeopathic,” the agency noted.

But “in light of the rapidly growing mainstream marketing of OTC homeopathic products alongside other OTC medicines,” the FTC has decided to step up enforcement.

As Ars readers probably know, homeopathy is a thoroughly debunked pseudoscience that hinges on the idea that “like cures like”. That is, homeopaths say that diseases can be cured by highly diluted doses of toxic substances that, in larger quantities, would cause the disease or similar symptoms. Believers say homeopathic remedies can cure everything from AIDS to teething.

Last month, the FDA warned parents to stop using homeopathic teething gels and tablets after reports of hundreds of illnesses and 10 infant deaths. Based on the symptoms reported, the products may contain an improperly diluted amount of belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade. The FDA investigation is ongoing.

In light of the FTC’s new policy, those products and other OTC homeopathic medicines will likely be repackaged.

The FTC acknowledged the contradiction of juxtaposing homeopathic claims with the disclosure that these claims are not supported by science. This, the FTC admitted, could confuse or mislead consumers. To ensure disclosure is not undermined by marketers’ claims, the FTC has directed homeopaths to collect marketing information, such as consumer surveys, that indicate consumers are not being misled.

“The Commission will carefully examine the net impression of OTC homeopathic advertising or other marketing that uses disclosures to ensure that it adequately reflects the extremely limited nature of the purported health claim,” the FTC warned. “If, despite a marketer’s disclosures, an ad contains more substantiation than the marketer has, the marketer is violating FTC law.”

By akfire1

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