This week, officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a 15-hour foray far outside the scientific mainstream. In a 2-day hearing, the agency invited public input on how it should regulate homeopathy—a traditional healing practice that has been called into question by numerous scientific studies. For now, homeopathic remedies, sold largely over the counter, are classified as drugs that can be marketed without FDA approval in the United States. But the agency may be ready to rethink its policy.
“We’ve had tremendous growth in the market and also some emerging safety and quality concerns,” Cynthia Schnedar, director of the Office of Compliance at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, told ScienceInsider. “In light of that, we thought it was time to take another look.”
The 200-year-old practice of homeopathy—estimated to be a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States—is based on two controversial principles: First, a substance that causes a specific symptom in a healthy person can relieve the same symptom in a sick person if consumed at a very low dose. Second, repeatedly diluting a substance actually makes treatment more potent, even if no detectable molecules of the original substance remain.