I have discussed many time the evidence that homeopathy is nothing but a placebo. This has moved beyond the realm of reasonable doubt, and despite the misguided advocacy of homeopaths and some consumers, more and more governments (e.g. UK, Australia) are coming to acknowledge that time and money spent on homeopathic treatment is wasted and delays appropriate and effective medical care.
Just as homeopathy is being challenged in the human healthcare field (e.g. disappearing from national healthcare in the UK), so it is being opposed by veterinarians who believe it offers only false promises to pet owners (c.f. efforts in the US, Australia, Europe, and the UK to discourage veterinary homeopathy). While these efforts are not always completely successful they represent a growing recognition that homeopathy offers no real health benefits and that suggesting it might and offering it as a treatment is unethical.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that over-the-counter (OTC)homeopathic remedies cannot be sold unless there is a clear disclaimer indicating that any claim for actual effects is unscientific and inconsistent with modern medical knowledge:
[Marketers must] effectively communicates to consumers that (1) there is no scientific evidence that the product works and (2) the product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.
While it is unclear whether this rule will be enforced by the incoming administration, it indicates yet again that regulators are recognizing a duty to protect the public against false and unscientific medical claims for homeopathic products. Veterinary patients deserve the same protection!
I have started a petition on change.org to ask Petco, one of the largest pet supply retailers, to discontinue the HomeoPet OTC product line and all other homeopathic products.
Petco currently sells these remedies in stores and online, through Petco.com and its subsidiary Foster and Smith. These products clearly intend to falsely imply they can treat medical conditions in pets. With names like “Digestive Upsets,” “Anxiety Relief,” “Skin and Itch,” “Worm Clear,” “UTI+,” and so on, these products suggest they can treat real medical conditions when the evidence is clear and robust that they cannot. This misleads and deceives consumers and endangers pets whose owners waste time and resources on these products instead of seeking real medical treatment.
So how can you help? Well first, SIGN THE PETITION!
In addition, I am writing the company leadership. Since the CEO is schedule to step down in February, I have addressed my letter to his successor, currently President and Chief Merchant. I encourage anyone concerned about this issue to write the incoming CEO. My letter is copied below, and you are welcome to reuse any portion of it for your own contact with the company.
President and Chief Merchant
PETCO Animal Supplies Stores, Inc.
9125 Rehco Rd.
San Diego, CA
Dear Mr. Weston:
I am writing to ask that your company discontinue selling the HomeoPet product line and all other over-the-counter homeopathic products, whether sold online through Petco.com and Fosters and Smith or in your retail stores. These products offer no therapeutic benefit to your customers’ companion animals, and they can harm these pets by encouraging owners to delay seeking appropriate veterinary care.
The scientific evidence is clear and robust that homeopathic products lack any benefit beyond placebo.1-2 This is widely accepted by regulators and other government agencies throughout the world.3-4 Here in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently concluded that marketing over-the-counter homeopathic products constitutes false advertising unless clear disclaimers are present to inform consumers that any claim of benefit for these products is inconsistent with scientific evidence and consensus.
For the vast majority of OTC homeopathic drugs, the case for efficacy is based solely on traditional homeopathic theories and there are no valid studies using current scientific methods showing the product’s efficacy. Accordingly, marketing claims that such homeopathic products have a therapeutic effect lack a reasonable basis and are likely misleading…
[Marketers must] effectively communicates to consumers that (1) there is no scientific evidence that the product works and (2) the product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.5
For Petco to stop selling these ineffective products would be in the best interests of your customers, and the animals they care for, and consistent with your company’s mission to provide products that truly support animal health and well-being. Thank you for your attention.
- Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2002;54:577-582.
- Shang A, Huwiler-Muntener K, Nartey L, Juni P, Sterne J A C, Pewsner D et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 2005; 366:726-732.
- Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Select Committee on Science and Technology. Evidence check 2: homeopathy : fourth report of session 2009-10 : report together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence.
London : TSO, 2010. Accessed December, 2016 at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/45.pdf
- Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council. Statement on Homeopathy and NHMRC Information Paper – Evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions. 2015. Accessed December, 2016 at https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/cam02
- United States Government. Federal Trade Commission. Enforcement Policy Statement on Marketing Claims for OTC Homeopathic Drugs. 2016. Accessed December, 2016 at https://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/p114505_otc_homeopathic_drug_enforcement_policy_statement.pdf