In what seems to be an attempt to level the playing field between allopathy and homeopathy, the US government has demanded that all homeopathic treatments that claim to cure a disease or condition must warn consumers that there's "no scientific evident to prove that homeopathy works".
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a US body, issued a notice earlier this month, offering marketing guidelines for over the counter homeopathic treatments.
According to the FTC notice (a policy statement), companies must have competent and reliable scientific evidence for health-related claims, including claims that a product can treat specific conditions. It also describes the type of scientific evidence that the Commission requires of companies making such claims for their products.
Over the years, homeopathy, which originated in Germany, has emerged as one of the leading alternative medicine options around the world. According to The Independent, in 2007 alone, it was estimated Americans spent more than $3bn on the controversial mode of treatment.
Back home, it is estimated to be Rs 2,758 crore market, and is expected to double by 2017, Business Standardreported recently. The report also states that India has around 100 million of the 600 million global users of homeopathy, and it is expected to grow up to 160 million by 2017.
However, homeopathy, which dates back to the 1700s has drawn sharp criticism from most modern medical experts, especially because its method is considered unscientific. "It is based on the theory that disease symptoms can be treated by minute doses of substances that produce similar symptoms when provided in larger doses to healthy people," the FTC said, adding, "Many homeopathic products are diluted to such an extent that they no longer contain detectable levels of the initial substance."
Earlier this year, Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has cricitised homeopathy calling it a bogus field. "They (homeopaths) take arsenic compounds and dilute it to such an extent that just a molecule is left. It will not make any effect on you. Your tap water has more arsenic. No one in chemistry believes in homeopathy. It works because of placebo effect,” he had told Hindustan Times.
The FTC notice also said that OTC homeopathic drug claim that is not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence might not be considered deceptive if the product states that the claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.
The NDA government has been pushing hard for alternative medicines, homeopathy being one of them. According to The Economics Times, the Centre spends around Rs 8.6 crore on Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) for research work in the field. It would be interesting to see whether the Indian government would also push for similar steps to ensure homeopathic treatment producers do not end up misleading consumers.