Scientific-Integrity Watchdog Slaps Lawsuit on Maker of Homeopathic Pills

A nonprofit scientific advocacy group sued Boiron last week for deceptively marketing its homeopathic products, legal documents show.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) filed the lawsuit Thursday against Boiron, a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer that sells homeopathic treatments, claiming that the company deceives customers about the nature and effectiveness of its products. The complaint alleges that Boiron sells a plethora of identical treatments that consist of sugar pills and powders, all while claiming that each of the products treat a specific illness or ailment (“Promised Panacea based on Homeopathic Hokum,” according to the lawsuit).

The organization claimed that Boiron used “unfair and deceptive trade practices” in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“Boiron profits massively by deceiving consumers in their time of need,” said Nick Little, JD, CFI vice president and legal counsel, in a press release.

“Boiron knows its products are worthless junk, so they do everything they can to obscure the truth in order to offload their snake oil upon the unwitting, the ill-informed, and the vulnerable,” Little added. “They can’t be allowed to get away with it any longer.”

In response to an inquiry from MedPage Today, representatives from Boiron said that the company is unable to comment at this time.

Proponents of homeopathy claim that substances that would typically harm a healthy person can cure others that suffer from that same type of harm, CFI said in the complaint. Additionally, homeopathy is based on the claim that the more dilute a substance is, the more powerful its curative effects will be, the organization added.

Boiron groups its products into categories based on the illnesses they target, including skin issues, joint and muscle pain, and motion sickness, among others, according to the complaint.

CFI stated that Boiron uses deceptive tactics to market its homeopathic products, duping customers into thinking that its formulas are scientific and evidence-based. The non-profit purchased four of Boiron’s products last summer to test the company’s treatments, evaluating the ingredients in each product.

Although Boiron markets individual treatments for specific ailments, CFI alleges that the ingredients in all of the company’s products were the same. The organization stated that there are no material differences among Boiron products, claiming that each substance contains “a heavily diluted ingredient” that provides small doses of an active ingredient.

CFI added that the differentiation among the products, including specific directions and dosing, conveys to customers that “Boiron has, a legitimate, proven basis for its claims and promises.”

Boiron’s deception compels customers to purchase one or more products for their specific illnesses, “when in fact all Boiron products are materially and effectively the same,” the complaint alleges. For example, the company recommends and sells magnesium phosphate to consumers who suffer from “writer’s cramp,” but markets arnica to those who have “musician’s cramp,” CFI stated.

CFI claimed that Boiron also deceives customers with its product labeling that misleads customers to believe the products are regulated by a governmental regulatory body. Boiron’s products are regulated by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States, which describes itself as “a non-governmental, non-profit scientific organization.”

Additionally, CFI claimed that Boiron particularly misled its customers about Oscillococcinum (Oscillo), a product it sells for the treatment of influenza, by misrepresenting clinical trial results and the quality of scientific evidence around the product’s efficacy. In 2011, Boiron faced a class action lawsuit brought by residents of California, stating that “the listed active ingredient in Oscillo, Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum, is neither active in combating the flu nor is it actually an ingredient in Oscillo.” In 2018, the Ninth Circuit court affirmed a 2016 jury verdict in favor of Boiron, explaining that the company “presented sufficient evidence from which the jury could have concluded that Oscillo actually works against flu-like symptoms.”

CFI is asking that the court declare Boiron’s conduct in violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act and award damages to consumers. Additionally, the organization requests that the court halt Boiron’s conduct.

“Boiron sells little pills of sugar with grandiose claims. It’s hard to believe anyone would try to pass off such junk as a surefire way to treat painful skin problems, heal mental health issues, and even to counteract menopause,” said Aaron Green, JD, CFI staff attorney, in a press release. “But Boiron has been doing just that by tricking consumers into risking their health and throwing away their money on its fancy faux ‘medicines.’ It’s time for Boiron and all homeopathy hucksters to be held accountable.”

  • Amanda D’Ambrosio is a reporter on MedPage Today’s enterprise & investigative team. She covers obstetrics-gynecology and other clinical news, and writes features about the U.S. healthcare system. Follow

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