This past September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to eight companies for manufacturing or marketing unapproved eye drops in violation of federal law. The eye drops in question, which include the brands EzriCare, Delsam, and Similasan, claim to be “homeopathic eye drop solutions” that purport to relieve dry eyes, pink eye, cataracts, styes, allergy symptoms, and computer eyes.
The problem? Homeopathy is a nonsensical, unregulated junk science and these eye drops can actually harm people.
Homeopathy is based on the belief that the body can cure itself, helped by using tiny amounts of natural substances to stimulate the healing process. The idea is that a very small dose of something that brings on symptoms in a healthy person can treat an illness with similar symptoms. So to cure poison ivy, you take a tiny amount of poison ivy, dilute it with a ton of water, and put that on a sugar pill or in liquid drops. Genius!
Homeopaths believe that the lower the dose, the more powerful the medicine, but in fact many of these “remedies” no longer contain any molecules of the original substance. Best case scenario, people are being duped into taking useless sugar pills that have no effect. But worse case scenario, they are putting dangerous, unvetted substances directly into their eyeballs, causing serious damage.
That’s why the FDA had to get involved. Some of the eye drops at issue contain silver, which can cause decreased night-vision and argyria, a condition that makes skin and eye tissue turn blue or gray. Unapproved drugs can also cause consumers to delay or stop medical treatments that have been found safe and effective through the FDA review process. And pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens put those products right next to the FDA-approved ones, so some shoppers might not even notice they’re buying an ineffective product.
Since the letters were issued, lawsuits targeting the eye drop companies or pharmacies have been filed in D.C., New York, Colorado, and Florida. One such lawsuit was filed by the Center for Inquiry against CVS and Walmart. Their suits alleges that the stores are violating D.C.’s Protection Procedures Act by implying that homeopathic remedies are equally effective as scientifically proven medicine. The D.C. Court of Appeals found that the use of misleading product placements and signage are unfair trade practices under the consumer protection law. Now, CFI can bring the case to a jury.
Homeopathy is one of those things that requires people to put all their trust in an unfounded belief rather than science and research. The next time you’re looking for a remedy, be on the lookout for products labeled as homeopathic, and make sure to buy eye drops and other kinds of medicine that are FDA approved.
Adriana Clark is a recent law school graduate and legal fellow with Secular AZ.