Living in a society filled with multiple medicinal options, it can be difficult and even confusing when choosing what methods are best for you and your family. Between natural medicine and mandated pharmaceuticals, the options for treating an illness can seem endless and often can be controversial. As a consumer, naturally one of the main concerns with health-related products is safety.
Recently, the FDA warned consumers against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels as well as ear drops distributed by CVS, Hyland’s, and other retail stores due to possible seizures and adverse health complications seen in children. This is thought to be a result of inconsistent amounts of natural remedy belladonna. Like many other herbal supplements, there’s no scientific basis for either the claim that belladonna is linked to harmful health effects or has the ability to sooth pain from teething. Ultimately, it’s up to each consumer to decide if the risk of not only supplemental remedies are worth the reward, but for scientifically evaluated and FDA approved drugs as well.
Homeopathy and the FDA
Invented hundreds of years ago in Germany, homeopathy is a natural system that treats a person as a whole rather than focusing on a particular disease. A primary characteristic of homeopathy is “like cures like,” the idea that substances which cause a particular symptom can also cure that symptom. To reduce side effects of these solutions, they are significantly diluted, which, contrary to popular belief, allows for a potent homeopathic remedy. In other words, the more diluted a chemical solution, the more therapeutic the same solution.
So what role does the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) play? While the FDA regulates homeopathic remedies, they don’t evaluate the treatments for safety or potency. A valuable factor to remember in regards to homeopathic remedies is that because usually a professional isn’t diagnosing the illness for over the counter purchases, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to do ample research on the alternative solutions, taking general health into consideration as well as the severity of the symptoms.
Though it’s unlikely any harm will come from most homeopathic products, preparation of the remedies can alter the state of the solution. Toxicity and contamination could result from faulty prep work, leading to undesirable effects. And similar to mandated pharmaceuticals, natural remedies themselves have the ability to cause rare, harmful side effects. Overall, homeopathy is an option for those who find alternative medicine complementary to their lifestyle.
Homeopathy as a Growing Industry
After taking a look at the worldwide revenue of both the alternative and traditional pharmaceutical industry, it’s obvious these markets are dually being fueled by billions of dollars of revenue. The homeopathic market alone has become a multimillion dollar industry in the US. Perhaps it’s because homeopathy is regarded as generally safe, minus the recent FDA warnings against the teething tablets, and cost effective versus the counterpart industry: big pharma. It seems that in the recent years, many consumers find synthetic drugs to be unpleasant for common ailments due to the possibility of the wide range of severe side effects, chemical dependency, and ease of overdose.
For those who don’t have health insurance, the prescription market can be extremely expensive and out of reach. And even for those families who do have health insurance, the shifting explosive cost of certain life saving synthetic drugs, such as the epinephrine pen, puts big pharma in an undesirable light for many consumers. According to the FDA, they’re working to expand the generic prescription market for important synthetic drugs like the epinephrine pen so large pharmaceutical companies like Mylan can’t take advantage of consumers, but for those in desperate need of this life saving drug, the process isn’t fast enough. Though there is a homeopathic alternative to the epinephrine pen, there hasn’t been any solid scientific evaluation of the alternative.
It couldn’t be clearer that both markets have significant pros and cons for consumers to weigh. Whether or not supporting scientific evidence is a factor in individualized patient-centered effectiveness is ultimately up to each consumer when assessing the multitude of options when it comes to preventative, palliative, and curative care for themselves and their families. Consumer research is always recommended when exploring natural and synthetic options for treatment, and it never hurts to explore a wide range of professional opinions.