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Are some homeopathic remedies dangerous to your health?

Many scientists liken homeopathic medicine to modern-day snake oil, but users stand by their products. Whatever you may think of it, homeopathy is a $3 billion industry, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Unlike dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies can advertise that they are intended for a specific medical condition. However, unlike pharmaceutical drugs, the FDA does not review them for safety or effectiveness.

One thing the FDA does do is police these remedies for potentially toxic ingredients and respond to reports of harm. The agency recently announced a proposal to target products posing the most serious safety risks. This would be the first update to the regulations on homeopathic medicine since 1988.

What's the harm?

For example, last year the agency sounded the alarm over a teething remedy marketed by Hyland's Homeopathic. The remedy was tied to incidents of seizures and even death in children. Testing later showed that the product contained elevated levels of belladonna, which is poisonous at certain dosages. The teething remedy was recalled in April.

So far this year, the agency has issued five warning letters to homeopathic medicine manufacturers because their products contained belladonna or nux vomica, which contains the poison strychnine.

Cold remedy manufacturer Zicam was ordered to stop marketing products containing zinc gluconate in 2009. The reason? Over 100 people reported losing their sense of smell after using the products.

"People may be putting their trust and money in therapies that bring little or no benefit in combating their ailments, or worse - in products that may cause serious and even irreparable harm," the FDA commissioner told reporters recently.

FDA proposes to target dangerous products for enforcement action

The FDA's proposal is to focus on products that claim to work for serious diseases like cancer, those that are marketed for children, and those administered in unconventional ways, such as through eye drops or injections.

The agency has the power to issue warning letters and seize dangerous products. It can also pursue criminal investigations when companies disregard the rules.

The National Institutes of Health says there is little evidence that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any condition. Consumer advocates say that these products are generally harmless, however, as long as manufacturers stick to traditional ingredients and dosing and maintain manufacturing standards.

Potential long-term effects

As in other cases of defective drugs, however, manufacturers do not always operate according to safe standards. For example, Johnson & Johnson and other companies have put many women at risk from carcinogenic substances used in making baby powder.

If have been harmed by a defective drug, you may have an injury claim. Learn more by contacting a lawyer at our firm experienced in product liability law.

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