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You Could Put An Eye Out! Spate Of Lawsuits Target Homeopathic Eye Drops
Homeopathy is nonsense, but that doesn't mean it's safe to put in your eye.
In the last month or so, lawsuits against several pharmacy chains and manufacturers of “homeopathic” eye drops have been popping up all over the place. In New York, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against CVS by a woman named Georgiann Jordan for consumers who “suffered bacterial infection, vision loss, other injury or death after using EzriCare eye drops, Delsam Eye Drops or Delsam eye ointment.”
Another proposed class action out of Colorado targets Similasan, another “homeopathic” eye drop solution that markets itself as only having “natural active ingredients,” differentiating itself from traditional over-the-counter eye drops that it says contain “chemicals to mask symptoms.” They also claimed to “stimulate the body’s natural defenses, so you can feel better without harsh chemicals.” They did none of those things, nor did they have to, because “homeopathic.”
And a woman in Florida is suing Walgreens over their “misleading claims” that the homeopathic eye drops they were selling were safe and effective, as well as over the fact that they were placed next to real eye drops on the shelf, allowing customers to assume that they were also tested for safety and efficacy.
It’s an all out war on the magical eye drops market! But why now?
Well, in early September, the FDA issued letters to these companies warning them to stop selling these “homeopathic eye drops,” both because they have not been proven to treat the things they claim to treat — such as glaucoma, pink eye, styes and cataracts — and because there are ingredients in them that could be harmful. Both CVS and Walgreens have pulled the products off the shelves, but that doesn’t mean that people weren’t harmed before then — even if only by spending money on a product they were led to believe was effective.
Specifically, the FDA cited the use of silver sulfate as a preservative in some of these products, which can cause decreased night-vision and argyria, the same blue-grey discoloration in the eyes and skin caused by consuming another well-known snake oil product, colloidal silver.
So, you know, not a great thing to be putting directly in one’s eye or one’s children’s eyes.
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The CVS Pink Eye Drops were specifically marketed as being safe enough for children.
“When your eyes are dry, itching, or burning, it can be a big problem that you want relief from right away. These Irritated Eye Drops from CVS Health can provide you with the rapid relief you need . . . They are very helpful for relieving irritation, redness, burning, and dryness. The homeopathic formula is safe for use in the eyes and easy to apply . . . These drops are gentle enough for frequent use and even for use on children.”
While it’s likely that many of those who bought this product didn’t necessarily realize that they were buying a homeopathic product and not something that was actually clinically proven to relieve “irritation, redness, burning and dryness” it was likely effective marketing for those who did.
Why? Because many people hear “homeopathy” and simply think “Oh, that just means it’s natural.”
Alas … homeopathy is nonsense. Actual homeopathy (as opposed to the use of the term as a catch-all for a variety of folk remedies and alternative medicines) is based on the utterly unscientific “principle” of “like cures like” — that substances that cause certain symptoms in healthy people can cure them in sick people, if they are diluted in water over and over again until there is no trace of the actual ingredient in the solution and then dropped on a sugar pill. The more it is diluted, the more “effective” it is meant to be. How can this be, you ask? Because they believe that the water carries the “memory” of the substance in it.
This is very much not a thing. I mean, if it’s a semi-religious belief for you and you’re just ingesting sugar pills, then knock yourself out. Or don’t, because you cannot overdose on homeopathy anymore than you can overdose on rolls of Smarties.
But when we’re talking about things that go in your actual eye, the standards have to be a bit higher.
This is not the first time that CVS and Walgreens have been sued over their homeopathic products. The Center for Inquiry has an ongoing lawsuit against the retail pharmacy giants for consumer fraud over the fact that they routinely shelve “homeopathic cures” right alongside medicine that actually did go through the process of being tested for safety and efficacy.
Multiple market research companies have predicted that demand for homeopathic products is going to explode over the next few years — with one estimating that it could be a $37 billion industry by 2033. That’s almost $40 billion dollars that could be spent on magic water dropped on sugar pills and eye drops that could actually harm your eyes.
Hopefully, between these lawsuits and the increased FDA crackdown, that will not come to pass.
As difficult as it would be for the FDA to “regulate” the products containing safe ingredients like water, sugar, air, memories, hopes or dreams, they could always consider placing warning labels on them like the warning labels on cigarettes. Big ol’ labels that say things like “Not FDA Approved” or “This Product Has Not Been Proven Safe Or Effective” or “Do You Think Water Has A Memory? Because The Makers Of This Product Sure Do!” or “Not Even One Molecule Of An Active Ingredient In Here” or “Equally Likely To Grow An Enormous Beanstalk That Will Allow You To Climb Up To A Giant’s Lair In The Clouds.”
Or even just a sign explaining how homeopathy is meant to “work” in the first place, which would certainly do a lot to deter anyone with half a brain.