USA – FDA’s efforts to protect patients from potentially harmful drugs sold as homeopathic products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes that consumers may use various types of unapproved drugs, such as homeopathic drug products, to treat or relieve different diseases and conditions. These products are often marketed as natural alternatives to approved prescription and nonprescription products and are widely available in the marketplace. Homeopathic products, however, are marketed without FDA review and may not meet modern standards for safety, effectiveness, quality and labeling. FDA uses a risk-based approach to monitor these products and to evaluate reports of adverse effects. 

Homeopathy is an alternative medical practice developed in the late 1700s that is based on the principle that a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can be used in diluted form to treat symptoms and illnesses, also known as “like cures like.” Homeopathic drug products are made from a wide range of substances, including ingredients derived from plants, healthy or diseased animal or human sources, minerals and chemicals, including known poisons. These products have the potential to cause significant and even permanent harm if they are poorly manufactured, since that could lead to contaminated products or products that have potentially toxic ingredients at higher levels than are labeled and/or safe, or if they are marketed as substitute treatments for serious or life-threatening diseases and conditions, or to vulnerable populations. In addition, some products may be labeled as homeopathic that do not conform to traditional homeopathic principles.

As the homeopathy industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, we want to clarify for both consumers and industry how we assess the potential safety risks of these products. That’s why in 2017, the FDA issued a draft guidance discussing our, risk-based enforcement approach to drug products labeled as homeopathic. Today, we are taking two new steps toward clarifying this approach…