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Zicam Side Effects Raise New Concerns About Homeopathic Drugs

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The potential problems of homeopathic medicine were brought into sharp relief last week, when federal regulators warned consumers not to use three Zicam nasal cold remedies.

Homeopathic medicines are very popular.  According to the Associated Press, sales of homeopathic drugs hit $830 million last year.  What’s more, in 2007 such remedies were taken by more than 4 million Americans.  But many consumers who use such products may be surprised at how little these drugs are regulated.  Homeopathic remedies like Zicam do not require  Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval, and they do not have to be proven safe or effective before going on the market.  However, the agency can intervene when there’s evidence a homeopathic drug may pose a risk to consumers.

Most American’s who use homeopathic drugs do so with the assumption that they are safe.  But the Associated Press dug up some disturbing facts about these products, including the fact that more than 800 homeopathic ingredients were potentially implicated in health problems last year.

What’s more, many are made with questionable ingredients.  For instance, some homeopathic remedies contain far more alcohol  than what is allowed in traditional medicines.  In fact, the FDA has acknowledged that some homeopathic syrups far surpass 10 percent alcohol.  The Associated Press also found that at least 20 ingredients used in conventional prescription drugs are also used in homeopathic remedies. This includes  digitalis for heart trouble and morphine for pain.  Homeopathic medicines have also been made  from cancerous and diseased tissues, and  poisons such as strychnine, arsenic or snake venom.

The Zicam debacle only highlights the possible dangers of unregulated, homeopathic drugs.  Last week, the FDA said it had received 130 reports of anosmia – loss of sense of smell – in people who had used three Zicam nasal remedies. During a conference call to announce the Zicam alert, the FDA also said Matrixx Initiatives had received an additional 800  anosmia reports it hadn’t made available to the agency.  Following the FDA alert, Matrixx Initiatives recalled two of the products – Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs. The company had already withdrawn Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size, the third product named by the FDA.

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