Rethinking Healthcare

How many more Zicams are out there?

How many more Zicams are out there?

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Any effort to go after quackery is going to first end up battling the political movements that have covered the profits of homeopathic providers for a generation. How far should it go?

The decision by the FDA to clamp down on Zicam, sending the stock of its maker into free fall and encouraging the plaintiff's bar,  is likely to be the first of many such actions.

The agency had been trying to reverse course during the last years of the Bush Administration. The Zicam action follows an April decision to restrict Internet drug advertising.

The agency wants more authority to go after food makers, the unit approving medical devices is called dysfunctional  (even though it now has the power to stop victims from suing in state courts) and the FDA is absorbing a 19% budget increase.

But just as the previous Administration was accused of being too close to business, homeopathic remedies of all kinds have become mainstream.

Deborah Kotz of US News reacted to the Zicam announcement by urging readers to toss all alternative therapies that haven't been approved as drugs. How many will follow her, and how many howl in protest?

The media is filled with such remedies, substances that claim to do good but haven't been proven to work. Head-On. Enzyte.  Oscillo. The list goes on and on. Each, like Zicam, has its defenders in the blogosphere. (The picture is from one such defender, writerpurple15.)

As the price of pharmaceuticals has risen, and the number of uninsured has increased, faith in such products has also gone up. Growth has also come from a growing backlash against vaccines and psychoactives given to children.

Any effort to go after quackery is going to first end up battling the political movements that have covered the profits of homeopathic providers for a generation. How far should it go?

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure