For many years, homeopathic drugs have been rejected by the mainstream scientific community as nothing more than placebos – despite this prevailing belief, there has been no official guidelines on its labelling.

After all, if they are effective, they would qualify officially as medicine and not as homeopathic compounds.

Clear labelling of ineffectiveness

Now, over the counter homeopathic remedies sold in the US will have to come with a warning that they are based on outdated theories ‘not accepted by most modern medical experts’ and that ‘there is no scientific evidence the product works’.

With the revised guidelines as set forth by the US Federal Trade Commission - the agency in charge of consumer protection - this has finally placed homeopathy drugs on the same regulative level as that of dietary supplements and other medications.

The warnings that are required of homeopathy drugs are set out in two parts. Firstly, “There is no scientific evidence that the product works,” and secondly, “The product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.”

Homeopathy is based on an archaic “like cures like” philosophy, in which diseases are “treated” with a diluted concoction that contains undetectable amounts of a substance that might cause similar symptoms of that disease.

Unsupported by science but popular with consumers

To explain the ineffectiveness of homeopathy, the FTC released a statement saying that, “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.”

“Accordingly, unqualified disease claims made for homeopathic drugs must be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Nevertheless, truthful, nonmisleading (sic), effective disclosure of the basis for an efficacy claim may be possible.”

Increased regulations may backfire

However, despite the new labelling and disclosure regulations imposed on homeopathy, the FTC acknowledges that, “...such a statement alone would adequately put consumers on notice that a product’s efficacy claims are not backed by scientific evidence, and could actually enhance the perceived credibility of the claim.”

The fact that the new regulations may backfire is particularly concerning given that, according to the most recently available government data in 2007, Americans spent over $3 billion on homeopathy, and it shows no signs of abating.

This is despite many experts, such as health policy expert Timothy Caulfield remarking that, “to believe homeopathy works … is to believe in magic.”

“Standardisation” of homeopathy drugs

Compounding the issue is issue of the labels on these homeopathy drugs looking “scientific”, with obscure units such as “12X HPUS”, with HPUS short for the equally misleading and official-sounding “Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States”.

With these new guidelines, uninformed individuals might equate this into the standardisation of homeopathy drugs, which may increase their sales, and backfiring on the FTC’s initial intentions.

Compounding the issue is that one of the FTC’s new guidelines may further exacerbate the backfiring. This is due to consumers having prior positive beliefs towards homeopathy, exhibiting a confirmation bias, and leading them to be biased against modern medicine.

Those who consume homeopathic drugs are also likely to be more sceptical of modern medicine, and with the introduction of these new guidelines, it is likely that these homeopathic drugs would be seen as more “desirable” to these groups of individuals - especially when they place emphasis on their products being “natural”. MIMS

Read more:
Pharmacists in Singapore and Malaysia: Why it is important for you to know about common traditional medication
Malaysian Health Ministry calls for public to stop use of CHR Creative Herbs
Malaysian Health Ministry bans traditional medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction