Nosodes. Fake medicine, real danger.


“Homeopathy is the air guitar of alternative medicine, going through the motions of medicine, without actually providing medicine”

-Scott Gavura, Science Based Medicine.

images (5)What are nosodes? In order to answer that let’s look at what they are not. They are not medicine. They are not vaccines. They are not an evidence-based treatment for any disease or illness. In that context, they are nothing.

Based on the idea that “like cures like” , nosodes are prepared from the bodily fluids (often feces, blood, and pus) of patients with diseases such as measles, anthrax and tuberculosis. Have no fear, they sound disgusting but are still basically just sugar pills because they are then sterilized and serially diluted, often to the point where no active ingredient remains.  Taking these “medicines” to prevent disease is known as “homeoprophylaxis” and several  homeoprophylaxis programs are promoted as replacements for the current vaccine schedule, claiming to provide immunity from measles, polio, pertussis, mumps, chicken pox, and the like. Homeoprophylaxis proponents often reference a few weak studies to support their claims,none of which were double-blind, randomised, controlled trials and most were published before 1970 and never replicated.

These homeopathic products are still marketed as a natural alternative to vaccines, even though there is not a single health or regulatory agency on the planet that supports this. And why would there be? Nosodes are the rule of homeopathy, not the exception – they do not work on treating anything because they have no active ingredient in them. The entire industry is a lie built on magical thinking  and this is evidence-based. A recent, large scale meta-analysis went so far as to state, “there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.” This is science speak for sorry hippies, but that there “medicine” is totally useless.The fact that homeopathy has no evidentiary basis and does not posses the ability to cure or treat any illness or any disease is well known to the regulatory bodies tasked with these products. The FDA has sent 40 warning letters since 2009 to homeopathic manufacturers over their overblown health marketing claims, and Canada has recently passed legislation requiring nosodes to be labelled with this warning:

“ This product is neither a vaccine nor an alternative to vaccination. This product has not been proven to prevent infection. Health Canada does not recommend its use in children and advises that your child receive all routine vaccinations.”

These sentiments and the actions based on them were foreshadowed by Canadian Paedatrics’s Society in a position statement they released earlier this year:

“Current regulations stipulate that labeling on nosodes must include the following statement: “This product is not intended to be an alternative to vaccination”. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) does not believe this proviso fully captures the fact that nosodes are clearly not a safe or efficacious alternative to vaccination. The CPS recommends that labeling on nosode products should be changed to read: “This product has not been proven to prevent infection. Health Canada advises that your child receive all routine vaccinations even if they take this product”. In addition to labeling changes, the CPS recommends that Health Canada undertake a public education campaign to encourage vaccine uptake and provide Canadians with best evidence regarding the proven benefits of vaccination and the risks associated with vaccine avoidance.”

As this CBC Marketplace shows, however, this has not stopped Naturopaths and Homeopaths in Canada from continuing to market the product as safe and natural alternative to traditional, evidence-based immunizations.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Health Canada’s actions in terms of labeling laws are noble, and in line with the Harper governments pro-vaccination position. Yet since 2012 this agency has licensed 36 nosodes, according to the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate. The FDA meanwhile is in a likewise bizarre situation. It states, emphatically, that it makes no assurances regarding the safety or efficacy of homeopathic “medicines”, yet it is tasked with regulating and approving them all the same – overseeing both quality and manufacturing. And while neither agency supports these product as vaccine alternatives, they must be aware that in many instances this is the *only* way they are marketed.

It is clear that Canada has taken more steps that its neighbour to the south in educating the public on the fact that nosodes are not vaccines and cannot be used in their place. But the U.S. might be closing the gap, and quickly. The FDA recently made a call for public input into regulation of homeopathy, and held a public hearing on this issue in April of this year. Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission upped the ante by issuing a public statement imploring the FDA to “consider amending or repealing its framework for homeopathic medications.”
Their appeal takes issue with:

  • How over-the-counter homeopathic drugs are labeled and sold. Currently, FDA does not approve homeopathic drugs for safety or efficacy as long as they meet certain conditions, such as being sold “for self-limiting disease conditions amenable to self-diagnosis (of symptoms) and treatment,” and are labeled for their intended use.
  • That the FDA does not require scientific or clinical data to back homeopathic products’ indications for use, which FTC says “may harm consumers and confuse advertisers.”
  • That advertisers mistakenly thinking they “do not have to comply with FTC advertising substantiation requirements” if they meet the requirements in FDA’s compliance policy guide.
  • How most consumers do not understand homeopathy, how the FDA regulates homeopathic drugs, or the level of scientific evidence needed to support health claims for homeopathic products.

Now you see them, soon you won’t?

It still remains to be seen if homeopathic medications will someday be held to the same standards as all other medicines sold in North America, meaning that they will be forced to adhere to regulations that require them to be both safe and effective. Not overly high bars for medicines at any rate. The best course of action, though, would be a complete industry wide crack down on nosodes and other homeopathic meds. They may be, by definition, nothing, but they are not harmless. Every child who receives and air guitar version of a vaccine risks contracting the full blown heavy metal version of the disease. Magical thinking kills, preventable childhood diseases kill, and any product, industry or health care provider than enables either to take root is culpable.

Further reading

Here is a great reading list on the topic of nosodes and homeopathy in general:
Pediatricians urge crackdown on nosodes as alternative to vaccines.
The Evidence for the Efficacy of Nosodes.

CPS POSITION STATEMENT – ‘Nosodes’ are no substitute for vaccines.
NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy 2015
Sorry, Hippies, Homeopathy Is Totally Useless.
How should the FDA regulate homeopathic remedies?
Statement from the Minister of Health on labelling changes for certain homeopathic products.
What is the HPUS?


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