For the first time in a quarter century, the FDA has announced that it is holding a hearing to seek the input on a number of specific questions regarding the use of homeopathic remedies. Although FDA regulates homeopathy, it does not evaluate homeopathic remedies for safety and effectiveness.
Why is this happening?
In the 1970s, lawmakers established a review system for all over the counter products, but left homeopathy out of that system. Since 2009, the FDA has issued nearly 40 warning letters to companies that make homeopathic remedies, as well as issuing warning to consumers about certain products, because they caused harm to patients using them.
History of Homeopathy
The practice of homeopathy is about 200 years old and is based on the Law of Similars, which means “like cures like.” The principle is if a substance causes a symptom, then by giving the person a very small amount of the same substance may prevent the illness. My own interpretation is that homeopathy works like vaccinations do – you give a small dose of something and the immune system builds natural resistance.
The story goes that Samuel Hahnemann was translating a book by another physician named William Cullen. Hahnemann disputed one of Cullen’s findings:
“Hahnemann’s first comments about the general applicability of the law of similars were in 1789 when he translated a book by William Cullen, one of the leading physicians of the era. At one point in the book Cullen ascribed the usefulness of Peruvian bark (Cinchona) in treating malaria due to its bitter and astringent properties. Hahnemann wrote a bold footnote in his translation, disputing Cullen’s explanation. Hahnemann asserted that the efficacy of Peruvian bark must be for other factor, since he noted that there were other substances and mixtures of substances decidedly more bitter and more astringent than Peruvian bark that were not effective in treating malaria. He then described his own taking repeated doses of this herb until his body responded to its toxic dose with fever, chills, and other symptoms similar to malaria. Hahnemann concluded that the reason this herb was beneficial was because it caused symptoms similar to those of the disease it was treating.”
To read a condensed history of homeopathy, click here.
Why FDA is considering regulating homeopathy
The problem is that there is no centralized peer review process to oversee the industry of homeopathy. In conventional medicine, there is the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, which sets standards for professional review actions. The peer review aims to lesson the likelihood of harm, and improve the quality of care and patient safety by learning from past performance, error, and near misses. Peer review is a risk management tool for the healthcare industry.
The Washington Post article stated “Last month, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council concluded that “there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.” The organization found that there were ‘no good-quality, well-designed studies with enough participants’ to determine whether such treatments were more effective than a placebo.”
A Peer Review System Is Healthy For All
The problem facing homeopathy is lack of centralized data and large(r) studies that would allow not-only homeopaths to interpret the effect of their medicines, but more importantly to provide peer reviewed data source for conventional doctors who have an interest in partnering with homeopaths.
Diabetes will never be cured by homeopathy, but I can tell you that every time I have a cold, I reach for homeopathic remedies because from my personal experience shows that homeopathy has fewer side effects than over the counter medicines. With the crack down on conventional medicine doctors handing out prescriptions for a cold, a peer review system for homeopathy would offer all doctors, nurse practitioners a place to investigate the possibilities of using natural medicine.