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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Separate and Not Equal Doesn't Work Either

I thought I would share this article that was linked by PZ Myers over at Pharyngula. The article in question concerns a product called Zicam which is supposed to be a cold remedy. Unfortunately, it seems to have a propensity to destroy peoples' sense of smell, possibly due to large quantities of zinc. Of course, it is entirely possible the damage comes from some other ingredient, because the company did not have to get formal approval for their product, so who knows what is inside?
The FDA said Zicam Cold Remedy was never formally approved because it is part of a small group of remedies that are not required to undergo federal review before launching. Known as homeopathic products, the formulations often contain herbs, minerals and flowers.
The fact that homeopathic products do not need to demonstrate the same rigorous product testing as anything else we put into our bodies (food and drugs, as it were) is not only dangerous but also nonsensical. You cannot have a separate set of rules regarding "medical" (using that term loosely) products that does not require demonstration of their efficacy and documentation of their possible side effects and still proclaim to protect consumers. I do not think most people realise the lack of regulation for homeopathic products. Most people are so used to assuming that products are safe (thanks to a lot of government regulation and testing) that they expect everything available for sale to be safe. When products don't have to be tested anymore, though, you can end up with some pretty horrible results. The free pass that homeopathy has should have never existed, and it ought to be rescinded.