Homeopathy, an alternative medical practice developed in the late 1700s, is a multimillion dollar industry in the United States, where resources not proven by science can be easily found online and in local stores. At a time prescribed mainly by homeopathic professionals, homeopathic cures for diseases are now found along with more conventional treatments, which leads to affirm that the largest retailer in the country is deceiving consumers about the safety and effectiveness of homeopathic treatments.
A lawsuit filed last month by the nonprofit Center for Inquiry accuses Walmart of widespread fraud and puts the health of its customers at risk by failing to establish a clear distinction between medications and homeopathic treatments. The lawsuit echoes claims the defense group made last year in a lawsuit against CVS Health.
"Walmart sells homeopathic products along with real drugs, in the same sections of its stores, under the same signs," Nicholas Little, vice president and general counsel of CFI, said in a news release. "Searches on their website for cold and flu remedies or baby teething products produce pages full of homeopathic junk products, it's an incredible betrayal of customer trust and abuse of Walmart's titanic retail power." .
However, Walmart said it expects its suppliers to follow legal regulations, including labeling laws. "Our Equate private label homeopathic products are designed to include information that directly indicates that the claims are not based on accepted medical evidence and have not been evaluated by the FDA," the retailer told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement mailed electronic. "We take allegations as serious as you are and we will respond as appropriate to the court."
CVS dismissed the civil suit against him for "having no merit" and added that it offers some homeopathic remedies in compliance with the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission. "We are committed to ensuring that the products we offer are safe, work as intended, comply with regulations and satisfy customers," said a spokesperson by email.
The FDA does not assess the safety or effectiveness of homeopathic products, although the agency sometimes warned consumers about certain homeopathic offers, including teething tablets sold by CVS in 2017.
According to the Poison Control Center of the National Capital, up to 10 percent of children receive homeopathic remedies from parents, especially for problems such as teething and ear infections. Apparently, that decision proved fatal for a 7-year-old Italian boy whose parents recently received suspended sentences for involuntary manslaughter for giving his son homeopathic remedies instead of antibiotics when he developed an earache.
IFC has been in negotiations with CVS since it filed a lawsuit against the pharmacy chain, said Little of CFI. "We have been trying to negotiate a solution that avoids the need to get involved in the courts, while ensuring that consumers receive information about the homeopathic products to which they are entitled." With some issues still unresolved, the parties recently agreed to submit initial motions in the case, he added.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest raised similar concerns, although they were not directly directed at Walmart or CVS, which questioned the marketing of homeopathic medicines in grocery stores and pharmacies along with over-the-counter treatments for common diseases or conditions. "These products can be confused with safe and effective treatments, creating a risk of consumer fraud," CSPI said last year in expressing support for regulatory oversight of the industry.
"People assume that these products are safe because they are considered" natural "and are available over the counter in chain pharmacies and grocery stores," added Sarah Sorscher, CSPI's deputy director of regulatory affairs.