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Federal agency to take hard line against homeopathic remedies

Many Kentucky residents like to supplement traditional medical treatments with alternative remedies and homeopathic medications that have been around in different incarnations for many years.

Much like dietary supplements that don't have their efficacy or safety vetted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), homeopathic remedies have flown under the agency's radar. But they are marketed to alleviate symptoms of certain conditions and diseases on par with pharmaceutical medications.

Some homeopathic remedies may be harmless but not very effective, i.e., more placebo than panacea. Sometimes the active ingredients are so diluted that their effect is negligible. Innocuous products like Cold-Eeze or Zicam Allergy Relief are low-risk and not a threat to consumers.

But there are plenty of alternative remedies that have never passed rigorous FDA tests. The active ingredients in some of the products can be very dangerous and may cause illness or even death.

This week, the FDA announced a crack-down on those products the agency perceives to be a potential health risk, especially those recommended to be used on kids or to treat serious conditions best managed by traditional Western medicine.

The Commissioner of the FDA issued a statement wherein he said, "We respect that some individuals want to use alternative treatments, but the FDA has a responsibility to protect the public from products that may not deliver any benefit and have the potential to cause harm."

A recent, lethal example of a dangerous homeopathic product is Hyland's Homeopathic teething tablets. Some babies and toddlers reacted badly to the level of belladonna (nightshade) in the tablets. The babies suffered seizures, and some died. Earlier this spring, the product was recalled.

Even supposedly benign Zicam came under fire in 2009 when the government agency made them cease manufacturing a trio of products made partially of zinc gluconate. There were over 100 consumers who used the products and then lost the ability to smell.

The FDA has in its crosshairs those remedies with unproven claims of curing cancer or other major health condition. They also are targeting products with nontraditional routes of administration, e.g., ear drops.

Those who sought treatment from homeopathic practitioners who instructed them to use alternative remedies that caused further harm may potentially have legal claims for compensation.

Source: CBS News, "FDA plans crackdown on homeopathic remedies," The Associated Press, Dec. 18, 2017

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