Walmart sued the sale of "nonsense" homeopathic remedies

May 20, 2019 | | Say something

Walmart is being sued for selling questionable alternative remedies.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that "pseudoscience can not harm society," filed a complaint Monday on behalf of Washington residents, D.C., against the giant retailer. The organization states that the hypermarket deliberately "creates a false and misleading impression on customers with respect to homeopathic products, presenting them as an equal alternative to science and evidence-based medication."

The retailer sells more than 1,000 homeopathic medicines, ranging from cold and flu relief to stress, both in the store and online. Homeopathy refers to alternative remedies made with natural substances, such as plants and minerals, that are not regulated or verified as traditional medicines or recipes. It follows the philosophy that the body can heal itself by virtue of "similar cures", that is, it can treat a condition with small, diluted doses of substances that cause the symptoms. For example, small doses of allergens such as pollen could be used to treat allergic patients.

"It's a very specific type of pseudoscientific nonsense," he says. Nick Small, vice president and general counsel of the Research Center.

Homeopathic items for sale in the "Health" section of Walmart.com. (Screenshot: Walmart)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) concludes that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment. It has been found that eye drops include crushed honey bees as the main ingredient. These products have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their safety and effectiveness in diagnosing, treating, preventing or mitigating medical conditions.

"Walmart uses the trust placed in it by customers as a supplier of medicines to benefit from the sale of these products with full knowledge of the absence of evidence of their effectiveness," the CFI complaint reads. By "exhibiting homeopathic products along with science-based medicines, without any distinction between them, Walmart is not providing accurate information to its customer base, and deliberately creates the false idea in its customers that there is no difference between these two radically different sets of Products, in violation of the DC law. "


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Homeopathy has been debated for a long time in medical circles and by consumer watchdog groups. In recent years, the FDA has tried to enforce stricter regulation, or what some critics say, the appearance of that Last Tuesday, the agency. sent warning letters to five homeopathic companies for significant infractions of current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) regulations.

"The reason why we present these demands is because the two organisms that regulate the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), are simply not doing enough (in regard to homeopathy)," he says. Little. "If Tylenol, for example, puts it in its packaging, it will help regenerate limbs after amputation," the FDA will close it. "

The Research Center argues that retailers should also bear the burden: companies like Walmart advertise homeopathic products as effective treatments without taking full responsibility.

It is not just a matter of consumer financial loss, but also consumer health. Some The products are poorly manufactured and contain potentially harmful ingredients, while others act as deficient substitutes for established medicines based on science, says the IFC. For example, a parent may give up antibiotics for a child with an ear infection instead of homeopathic ear drops. This type of alternative care may result in long-term damage to the ear and deafness.

"When sick people avoid effective treatment instead of homeopathic products, they suffer symptoms unnecessarily for longer," the complaint says. "They can suffer long-term consequences, even death."

Walmart responded to the complaint with the following press statement: "We want to be the most reliable retailer, and we are looking for our suppliers to provide products that comply with all applicable laws, including the labeling laws." Our Equate private label homeopathic products are designed to include information directly indicating that claims are not based on accepted medical evidence and have not been evaluated by the FDA We take allegations like these seriously and will respond accordingly to the court. "

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This is not the first retailer that the Consultation center. Last July, the organization filed a similar civil lawsuit against CVS Pharmacy. The action occurred after the center reportedly I spent years trying to convince CVS to market homeopathic treatments with more transparency. Little says that the CFI has since had "very good discussions (with CVS) about the changes that can be made".


Related: CVS will now require proof of third-party supplements. It's enough?


To be clear, CFI does not seek to eliminate these products from Walmart or other stores. "Homeopathic products are legal, and adults have the right to buy them regardless of their lack of efficacy," he says. Instead, the organization seeks to ensure that retailers properly label products and prevent science-based medicines from being sold alongside homeopathic products.

In addition, CFI argues that Walmart should not suggest that homeopathic products can treat particular diseases or symptoms unless they have "credible scientific evidence". Recommends clear and legible warnings to consumers about what homeopathy is.

However, it seems unlikely that the suggested warnings will be adopted by any retailer that wants to sell products. The labels would say: "There is no scientific evidence that the product works" and "the product claims are based solely on theories of homeopathy of the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts."

Little concedes: "He is asking a lot of the retailer," but on the other hand, he is not requesting anything beyond what the FTC demands.

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"If you are selling a product, you must provide accurate information about it. The customer has the right to that information, "says Little." Either you give people the warning or you stop selling it as a product. "

CFI says it is willing to work with retailers to suggest best practices and create a safer shopping experience. The general consumer knows very little about homeopathy and its informed failures, so it is up to Walmart to act as an educator, the organization argues. It is simply not practical to assume that consumers will know the details of the product's effectiveness.

"We trust the doctors, we trust the pharmacist, we trust that when we walk into a store, the products that are placed under the sign (a medical condition) really treat that condition, and these homeopaths do not," says Little. "I think (Walmart) will see that what we are asking for is not unreasonable, it is not excessive and it serves the interests of its clients. That's what retailers should do. "

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