Walmart Pitches Woo

-Submitted by David Durmm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Woo, a term used by scientific skeptics for pseudoscience, alternative medicine and New Age beliefs, or a person who holds such beliefs.

Walmart, through their website, is selling Oscillococcinum, manufactured by Boiron, to be used “for flu-like symptoms.” Their image of the package shows that the product “Reduces [the] Duration and Severity of Flu Symptoms,” including “Fever, Chills, Body Aches and Pains.”

It does no such thing.

According to a report from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center:

There was no evidence that homoeopathic [sic] treatment can prevent influenza-like syndrome …

In a study from the University of Exeter:

Similarly, there was no homeopathic remedy that was demonstrated to yield clinical effects that are convincingly different from placebo.

You might as well buy a dispenser of Tic Tacs, it’s cheaper, too.

Does Walmart not have a shred of ethical obligation? Does Walmart have to exploit the ignorant? The product is also available from Target.

The stupid and their money are soon parted.

H/T: CFI.

51 thoughts on “Walmart Pitches Woo”

  1. PaulThomson,

    Than you shouldn’t have a problem having “natural” treatments being regulated like drugs and having to prove their effectiveness. My problem isn’t with any specific claim, it’s with the regulatory loophole that was carved out for them in the 1990s.

    P.S. I don’t think you’ll ever once find me saying “that there isn’t any research on acupuncture or herbs.”

  2. James M.

    Just saying over and over that there isn’t any research on acupuncture or herbs does not make it so. In FACT, there is a very large body of evidence from all over the world supporting acupuncture, homeopathy, and many types of herbs and other “natural” treatments.

    If you spend ten minutes on any search engine you cannot help but stumble over this research. NIH funds some of it, and it’s been going on for decades now. All over the world. Really.

    Once upon a time, medical skeptics could get away with just wishing and saying it isn’t so, but there is too much clinical evidence now.

  3. Nal
    1, January 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm
    CAM and Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia syndrome is a poorly-understood and controversial pain syndrome. In brief, it identifies patients who have significant chronic pain which is not due to any identifiable pathology.

    Fibromyalgia is a syndrome whose symptoms naturally wax and wane. It can be very easy to confuse a change in disease state that occurs during a study with an actual effect.
    ———————————–
    Nal, I have had fibro for years, it is not so vague as your source states. Also, in addition to the very detectable inflammation are the studies that show higher chemical levels of substance P in the spinal fluid…this disease has been accepted much faster (than MS and many other real diseases) as medical studies and sleuthing have added more and more to the knowledge base. IMHO it’s only the delay in starting the testing due to frank accusations of it not being real that held up the resulting progress in discovery and current treatments.

    ‘Because of the emotional distress experienced by people with this condition and the influence of stress on the symptoms themselves, fibromyalgia has often been labeled a psychological problem. Recognition of the underlying inflammatory process involved in fibromyalgia has helped promote the validity of this disease.’
    medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fibromyalgia

  4. Marketing for dietary supplements should be limited to identifying the ingredient, statements about its quality (e.g. “Grown in the United States”, “Organic”, “100% Natural”, etc.), and any warnings about dangerous dosages (e.g. “Do not exceed 300mg/day or . . .). Nothing in the marketing should be allowed to suggest what the supplement should be used for.

  5. I don’t care if people want to dose themselves with herbs or poke themselves with needles. However, corporations should be prevented from marketing such materials as effective unless they have rigorous scientific studies demonstrating their effectiveness.

  6. Slarti,

    I tried acupuncture and Chinese herbs as a last resort because doctors couldn’t help me. I’m so glad that I did. I’m not a hypochondriac. I am, however, a skeptic. Acupuncture treatments did indeed relax me and helped alleviate my chronic pain/discomfort–and the Chinese herbal remedy that I take daily has really helped too.

  7. Nal,

    Just because a disease or condition is poorly-understood and/or controversial–that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I have a close relative who has fibromyalgia. Life has not been easy for her in recent years.

    *****
    Slarti & Nal,

    Nal wrote earlier quoting some doctor:

    I have written numerous blogs both here and on SBM about the acupuncture literature, which clearly shows that acupuncture, for any indication, is nothing but an elaborate placebo.

    But there does appear to be a significant placebo effect, in addition to non-specific effects from relaxation and therapeutic attention, to the ritual of acupuncture.

    *****

    My response: Doctors give people pills to relax them when they’re under stress…when their muscles are tense. If acupuncture can relieve stress and tension why is it only considered a placebo effect when drugs that relieve stress and tension aren’t considered to have a placebo effect?

  8. Boiron is a French company with over seventy years experience in homeopathic medicine. I don’t know if this particular medicine is effective or not but the Walmart customer should have the same choices as the generally healthy Germans do. I know some very healthy people that practice homeopathy so who knows.

  9. Oops…

    My last sentence should end ‘…as the only anesthetic for surgery.’

  10. Ladies (Elaine, Blouise, and Swarthmore mom),

    I agree with all three of you. There is thousands of years of empirical data saying that acupuncture and herbs work (besides, what is Pfizer but a modern apothecary?). I don’t know, but I would bet that the success rate for both is well above the placebo rate (I would love to see a double-blind study on how the efficacy of acupuncture varies between people of various asian and western cultures… I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked better in asians due to a heightened placebo effect – like the difference between pills and shots mentioned above – bolstering the technique). Also, I have heard of (but not read myself), articles from researchers in Beijing where a Chi Kung master laying hands on the patient (and giving/manipulating her chi) was used successfully as the only anesthetic.

  11. CAM and Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia syndrome is a poorly-understood and controversial pain syndrome. In brief, it identifies patients who have significant chronic pain which is not due to any identifiable pathology.

    Fibromyalgia is a syndrome whose symptoms naturally wax and wane. It can be very easy to confuse a change in disease state that occurs during a study with an actual effect.

  12. As I understand it, failing to exploit the stupid and ignorant for monetary gain when an opportunity arises is seriously unAmerican and the kind of thing only contemptible losers would do.

  13. Anonymously Yours
    1, January 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm
    I remember the days of pitching woo and alternative medicines….but that was usually on Friday that could run into Sunday if I was lucky….

    =======================================================

    Ahh … the memories … and you had the car for it!

  14. I’ve long felt that we need to change the illogical rules that allow “dietary supplements” to make claims about treating diseases. If you want to tell people you’re a drug, you need to treated like a drug and have evidence to back up your claim.

  15. Swarthmore mom
    1, January 30, 2011 at 9:30 am
    Boiron products are sold at all health food stores. Austin is the city of “woo”. People seem pretty healthy there. I like alternative medicine especially acupuncture and chinese herbs. Pfizer isn’t necessarily the solution.

    Elaine M.
    1, January 30, 2011 at 9:37 am
    Swarthmore mom,

    I’m with you on acupuncture and Chinese herbs. They helped me. My primary care doctor believes in alternative forms of medicine. That said, I’m sure not all forms of alternative medicine are created equal.

    =======================================================

    You know I’m with you both on this one

  16. I remember the days of pitching woo and alternative medicines….but that was usually on Friday that could run into Sunday if I was lucky….

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