OTC in Action Episode 26: Honing in on homeopathy

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Last month, OTCs were in Action at a US FDA meeting, where eminent naturopathic physicians and captains of the homeopathy industry defended the current regulatory structures for the drugs, and a few sceptics were concerned with the lack of scientific-based evidence for compliance. This venerable segment of the market has long been ignored by the agency but the increasing popularity of homeopathy, the introduction of pseudo-homeopathic dietary supplements, as well as inappropriate treatment claims such as asthma, have put the alternative treatments in the spotlight.

Back in 1938, the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act recognised the US Homeopathic Pharmacopeia as the official compendium containing monographs for homeopathic drugs. Fifty years later, The Compliance Policy Guide (CPG) gave the FDA authority to effectively police the homeopathic medicine trade for compliance in terms of appropriate OTC claims, product safety and GMP. The Federal Trade Commission helps regulate claims and advertising.

According to the CPG: The practice of homeopathy is based on the belief that disease symptoms can be cured by small doses of substances which produce similar symptoms in healthy people.

Although the efficacy of homeopathic drugs will be debated forever, the issue is further clouded by the fact that some  OTC “homeopathic drugs” are not prepared with homeopathic methods of dilution, but make a homeopathic drug claim based on having a plant source. This allows these pseudo-homeopathic products to avoid dietary supplement status and the required disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” It also crosses the firm line stated by Paul Mittman, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences: A homeopathic is a drug and a dietary supplement is a food.

This is just the beginning of the FDA’s evaluation of homeopathic products, with written comments accepted until 22nd June — and it’s likely there will be some harsh and sceptical comments on homeopathy received by the FDA. However, given the entrenched status of homeopathy as a viable alternative therapy practiced by medical professionals, as well as a relatively safe profile as a mass market OTC, will the FDA overhaul their regulation? Written comments are welcome here as well!

Full coverage of the meeting will be published in the May issue of OTC INSIGHT North America.

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