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Medical News & Perspectives
October 21, 2009

Despite Health Claims by Manufacturers, Little Oversight for Homeopathic Products

JAMA. 2009;302(15):1631-1634. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1476

Recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings that a popular over-the-counter cold remedy could cause loss of sense of smell in users have drawn attention to potential risks associated with so-called homeopathic remedies.

Such products are usually allowed to be marketed as remedies for an array of health conditions without first demonstrating their safety and efficacy to the FDA. However, in June the FDA warned consumers that zinc-containing Zicam products (Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs, and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size) could cause anosmia, and warned the manufacturer, Matrixx Initiatives (Scottsdale, Ariz), to stop marketing them. The children's product was no longer being sold at the time of the warning, and Matrixx Initiatives has since voluntarily recalled the other 2 products, but disputed that they pose a risk. The warnings have renewed debate about the safety and efficacy of homeopathic products and whether they should be subjected to closer oversight.