Leading Scientists and Physicians Rebuke Walmart for Selling Ineffective Flu Remedies

January 26, 2011

Amherst, NY – January 26, 2011 – The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and the Center for Inquiry (CFI) have issued a joint statement criticizing retail giant Walmart Stores, Inc.’s misleading promotion on its website of a homeopathic medicine as a treatment for the flu.

Prominent scientists and medical specialists have joined CSI and CFI in publicly calling for Walmart to end its promotion of Boiron Oscillococcinum, a purported remedy for flu symptoms. (Boiron is the manufacturer; oscillococcinum is the homeopathic product.) The statement reads, in part: “We urge Walmart to cease marketing this ineffective product immediately. Although we recognize that doing so might not serve Walmart’s financial interest, we hope Walmart will act appropriately out of a sense of ethical obligation. The cooperation of good corporate citizens is indispensable if public consumers are to rely on the claims of health-remedy producers and the companies that market their products.”

The statement is available in its entirety on the websites of both CFI and CSI.

CSI and CFI contacted Walmart in November 2010 regarding its inaccurate and misleading marketing of Boiron Oscillococcinum. To date, Walmart has neither responded to nor acknowledged receipt of the letter it received from CSI and CFI. “We have issued a public statement because Walmart has failed to respond to our privately expressed concerns,” explained Ronald A. Lindsay, president & CEO of both CSI and CFI. “Our goal is not to embarrass Walmart, but to persuade Walmart to stop marketing ineffective products to people who are ill. The health of Walmart’s customers should be more important than the extra dollars to be made by selling junk such as oscillococcinum.”

In the “Medicine Cabinet” section of its website, Walmart assures customers that products such as Boiron Oscillococcinum will “fight colds and the flu.” Walmart’s website further promises to help the customer “stay on top of cold and flu season by learning about products that can help you and your family stay well, relieve symptoms and recover fast.” In its “Cough, Cold, and Flu Buying Guide,” Walmart also asserts that its products will provide the customer “with everything you and your family need for battling a cold or the flu.”

The leading scientists signing the statement include Nobel laureate Dr. Venki Ramakrishnan, as well as several prominent medical experts. Additional scientists and experts are expected to endorse the statement in coming weeks.

According to the statement, homeopathic oscillococcinum solutions were first produced in the early 20th century on the mistaken assumption that they contained “oscillococci,” microscopic bacteria that proved to be imaginary. There is no credible scientific evidence to support the effectiveness, beyond the placebo effect, of Boiron Oscillococcinum’s “200CK” homeopathic preparation.

CSI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting scientific inquiry and critical investigation, including critical investigation of claims relating to unconventional healthcare practices, such as acupuncture, therapeutic touch, and homeopathic medicine. CSI’s advisors include a number of leading scientists, some of whom are medical specialists. A list of CSI’s fellows, advisors, and staff is available on CSI’s website at http://www.csicop.org/about/csi_fellows_and_staff/.

The Center for Inquiry is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization based in Amherst, New York; it is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is http://www.centerforinquiry.net.


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.