CVS Sued for Fake Medicine: Homeopathy Alert
Here’s a story for today: it seems one of our largest and most trusted health care providers has been pulling a swiftie on the American public.
In stores and online, adjacent to real scientific medicines (in D.C. as alleged and presumably nationwide) CVS has been hawking dangerous, pseudo-science woo-woo to the public. Their cynicism and profit motivated dishonesty is assaultive of our reasoning, wallets and health.
Comes now the Center for Inquiry (CFI), plaintiff in a lawsuit against CVS. CFI is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization, usually given to defending the teaching of real science in schools as opposed to religion-as-truth nonsense, and generally kept busy moving our society towards rational, science based policy and education.
Jurisdictionally, the case and controversy at bar is to be heard in the District of Columbia, where the tort (harm) is being inflicted. At law, it can sometimes be hard to provide a single “victim” to a wrong when that victim is diffuse, public, and individually unidentifiable. Be that as it may, all sorts of laws, criminal and civil, are routinely enforced this way, so CFI is on solid legal ground. In America we have a system whereby one can still sue in the public interest and that’s what CFI vs CVS is doing.
As reported by your correspondent recently, the harms of pseudoscience and fake medicine are manifold and fatal. Firstly, in relying on unproven medicine people do so at the expense and danger of neglecting real cures. There are ethical implications, also, of buying into and empowering purveyors of fraudulence. Homeopathic “medicine” is a $2.7 Billion industry.
Secondarily, users of fake medicine can actually do harm to themselves: every year there are 23,000 emergency room visits due to the quackery of vitamins and supplements.
CVS markets the homeopathic products next to, and thus equal to by association, real therapies for colds, flus and other ailments. In their (bricks and mortar) stores and online there is no difference between the two options. Perhaps the suggestion of an overall consumer boycott of CVS and a spanking, shorting of its stock (NYSE: “CVS”) is more in order here? But the CFI doesn’t go that far, yet.
Why is this a Big Deal? To quote the lawsuit:
“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.”
Central to the outcome of this small lawsuit is the larger question: does it nudge the dial towards rational medicine and away from the shit-train of gee gaw hawkers, Holy Rollers, Ayurveda, acupuncture, woo-woo shamans, spiritualists, nutritionists, chiropractors, osteopaths and the like?
Let’s hope so! It’s a dial that matters: our health and progress all depend on one side winning this one-sided argument. Basically it is fight against ignorance and scientific illiteracy taking on those who would profit (to wit: CVS) from the latter.
Horribly, in 2018 when pretty much all the real information we need is a few index finger spasms away from our frontal cortices, garbage reigns supreme. It’s not just fake news, its fake medicine, anti-vaxxers, mommy-wellness blogs (spare us!), and a president who is amenable at least, to crazy conspiracy theories.
Let’s hope the Center for Inquiry win the suit and CVS cease and desist their practices although a specific legal remedy here is yet to be negotiated: in the bigger picture a lot is at stake.
David Anderson is an attorney in New York City, admitted to the New York State Bar in 2002 with an educational background in politics and psychology. His articles appear in Democracy Chronicles, Forbes, Alternet and Counterpunch. He has no pecuniary or other interest in companies he writes about.