CVS Must Stop Marketing Homeopathic Pseudoscience as Real Medicine in D.C.

For Immediate Release: December 22, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry has filed a complaint against CVS Health with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in order to keep CVS from marketing homeopathic products as though they are scientifically proven treatments, or displaying them alongside real, evidence-based medicine. CFI warned CVS that it is endangering the health of its customers by erasing the line between genuine and pseudoscientific treatments, and in so doing may be in violation of the law in the District of Columbia.

Homeopathy is the unsubstantiated 18th-century pseudoscience, premised on the nonsensical concept of “like treats like” – that a substance that causes a malady can also be used to cure it. Homeopaths believe that dilution of that substance increases its strength, and products are often diluted to such a degree that no trace of the ingredient exists. Simply put, not only does homeopathy not work, it cannot possibly work.

In both its physical stores in D.C. and on its website, CVS markets homeopathic products as though they are legitimate alternatives to evidence-based medicines, displaying them alongside real medicine on its store shelves, and nesting homeopathics under the same categories as real medicines on its website.

“CVS is deliberately creating the false impression that homeopathic products are as safe and effective as scientifically-proven medicine,” said Nicholas Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “By obscuring the crucial distinction between genuine and sham treatments, CVS is unscrupulously abusing the trust of its customers while putting their health and even their lives at risk.”

“By failing to provide customers with truthful information about homeopathy,” said Little, “we maintain that CVS is in violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.”

Aside from being a waste of consumers’ money, homeopathic treatments chosen to the exclusion of evidence-based medicines can result in worsened symptoms or even death. Several homeopathic products have been found to contain poisonous ingredients which have affected tens of thousands of adults and children in just the last few years.

Rather than asking that CVS no longer be allowed to sell homeopathic products, CFI suggests a series of changes, such as no longer displaying homeopathics on the same shelves as evidence-based medicines and creating a new homeopathy section of their physical and online stores with clear warnings there is no evidence that the products contained therein are effective for the treatment of any ailment or condition.

CFI has for many years lobbied for tighter regulation of homeopathic products, and has been invited by the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to provide expert testimony. As a result, this week the FDA announced it would take a firmer stance against unsafe homeopathic products.

“You can’t display something under a sign saying ‘cold and flu’ without sending the message to customers that it treats colds and the flu,” said Little. “Homeopathy does not and cannot treat colds and the flu, or anything else. All it can do is empty your wallet.”

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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