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Use of homeopathic remedies continues to climb.

NEW YORK -- Homeopathy remains controversial even though the practice has been around for centuries and usage of homeopathic remedies has risen, serving primarily as a complement to traditional medicine and, in some cases, as an alternative.

Case in point, the Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning that homeopathic teething tablets and gels may present a health risk to infants and children.

FDA urged consumers to stop using the products and dispose of any remaining tablets and gels, which are available at retail stores and online and included products sold by CVS Pharmacy and Hyland's.

FDA advised consumers to seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating or agitation after using the homeopathic teething products.

Responding to the FDA warning, CVS Health voluntarily withdrew all brands of homeopathic teething products sold in its retail stores and at and placed a "do not sell" block in its store register system to prevent further sales of any affected items.

Hyland's, however, reaffirmed the safety of its homeopathic teething tablets and gels and referred to the FDA's warning recommending that consumers discontinue use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels as "a surprise statement."

Hyland's stated: "We want you to know that we are confident that Hyland's Baby Teething Tablets remain safe. Of course, parents who may have concerns should consult with their physicians before using any medicines, read labels carefully and follow all instructions. Homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by FDA. We are fully cooperating with FDA's inquiry, and we're providing them with all the data we have. We also hope to learn from FDA what facts, if any, the agency has based its action on."

A study from Harvard University points to good news for homeopathic remedies. The survey, which was published in The American Journal of Public Health, shows that homeopathic medicine, while still only used by a small fraction of the U.S. population, has jumped 15% in use, with most homeopathic users considering homeopathy among the top three complementary and integrative strategies they include in their health care regimens.

The Harvard researchers looked at the patterns and frequency of homeopathic medicine use among American adults in relation to other complementary and integrative medicinal uses. Earlier versions of the survey, in 2002 and 2007, found much less use of homeopathic medicines--1.7% in 2002 and 1.8% in 2007. The 15% growth since the last survey corresponds to an overall use rate of 2.1% in 2012. Respiratory and ear, nose and throat complaints and musculoskeletal pain syndromes were the most common conditions in which users looked to homeopathic options.

The survey found that use of homeopathy in the U.S. is lower than in many European countries. The Harvard researchers also reported an increase in positive views of homeopathy among those who saw a professional homeopathic practitioner compared to those who simply purchased homeopathic remedies on their own.

Reductions in unnecessary antibiotic usage, reductions in costs to treat certain respiratory diseases, improvements in perimenopausal depression and improved health outcomes in chronically ill individuals were among the potential public health benefits from homeopathic medicine, according to the researchers.

Homeopathic medicine is a practice based on the philosophy that the body has the natural capacity to heal itself and that various symptoms of an illness are signs that the body's built-in defenses are at work to restore itself to good health.

The theory behind homeopathy --"like cures like"--is that the same substance that causes an illness can cure that same illness.

Homeopathic practitioners, in keeping with this idea, believe that a small dose of what makes a patient sick will initiate the body's healing process and thus begin bringing the patient back to health. These highly diluted doses, whether in pill or liquid form, are known in homeopathic medicine as "potentiated" substances.

Homeopathy, according to the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to promoting health through homeopathy by advancing the use and practice of homeopathy, "is a safe, gentle and natural system of healing that works with your body to relieve symptoms, restore itself and improve your overall health. "

NCH also says homeopathy "is extremely safe to use, even with very small children and pets; has none of the side effects of many traditional medications; is very affordable; is made from natural substances; and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. "

Some of the acute illnesses that NCH lists as treated by homeopathy include colds, ear infections, migraines and sore throats, as well as such chronic conditions as asthma, depression, autism and arthritis.

Much of the news regarding homeopathy comes on the heels of the growing debate regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines as well as controversy stemming from some parents who do not wish their children to receive mandated immunizations, which has brought about even more interest in vaccines as parents and the general public continue to seek additional information.

To help clarify the homeopathic industry's position, the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists (AAHP) released a statement last year reminding manufacturers and marketers that the promotion of any product--regardless of whether it is a homeopathic treatment or not--as an over-the-counter alternative to a vaccine is a violation of federal and state law. AAHP, the nonprofit trade organization of the American homeopathic industry, represents 90% of the U.S. homeopathic market.

The principle of homeopathic medicine that "like cures like" means the products are intended to treat symptoms that are present rather than potential future symptoms, according to AAHP. As such, the association does not support the prophylactic use of homeopathic drugs.

Furthermore, most cases of an infectious disease, according to the AAHP statement, are not self-limiting; the symptoms and diagnosis need to be confirmed by laboratory tests. These are contributing factors as to why the FDA requires any product labeled for prophylaxis of a serious health condition that is not self-diagnosed to be sold pursuant to a prescription.

When properly applied by trained medical professionals, homeopathy has been shown to be useful in treating symptoms of epidemic disease, according to AAHP, which cites an early 20th century flu pandemic in which broad symptoms experienced by a large population were matched to the appropriate broad-acting homeopathic medicine.
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Feb 6, 2017
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