Homeopathic baby tablets linked to poisonings finally recalled
A line of products suspected of poisoning hundreds of children and killing several has finally been recalled by its manufacturers, years after the Food and Drug Administration began warning parents to stay away from it.
On Thursday, the Standard Homeopathic Company announced it would issue a nationwide recall for all lots of their Hyland's Baby Teething Tablets and Hyland's Baby Nighttime Teething Tablets sold in any retail stores. The parent company of Hyland's, a long-time retailer of homeopathic treatments, had earlier announced it would stop making and distributing the products within the U.S. in October, following the FDA's recent advisory in September. But the company explicitly refused to consider a voluntary recall requested by the agency until now.
"We are committed to maintaining and earning the trust consumers have placed in Standard Homeopathic Company," said CEO J.P. Borneman in a statement. "We have worked for 114 years to build relationships with our consumers. We intend to preserve that tradition of trust."
Over the past decade, parents and doctors have reported to the FDA that their children experienced severe side effects soon after using a Hyland's teething product, from seizure and trouble breathing to coma and death. In October, the agency confirmed that at least around 400 such "adverse events" were linked to the product's use, along with 10 deaths. But it's likely other cases have gone under the radar.
The agency long suspected that the products' inclusion of belladonna, a plant once commonly used as a makeshift muscle relaxant but which can be toxic and deadly in high enough doses, was the culprit. And in January of this year, it released the results of its investigation, which performed lab tests on a sample of Hyland's products and found that they often contained varying amounts of belladonna, sometimes far above what was described on the label.
The irony is that homeopathic remedies are widely known to have no active ingredients at all when prepared correctly, due to how heavily diluted they are. Advocates of these therapies have claimed that this dilution in fact makes the concoction all the more potent, but the vast majority of studies have disproved that idea, and scientists generally treat homeopathy as nothing more than snake oil by another name.
Far from being a harmless placebo, though, research has shown that many homeopathic treatments, along with herbal and dietary supplements, are improperly produced and oftentimes contain amounts of an ingredient that vary drastically from bottle to bottle, much as the case with Hyland's.
In part because of how lightly regulated the supplement and alternative medicine industry is, however, it took years before the FDA took strong action against the Standard Homeopathic company. In 2010, as first reported by STAT News, the agency requested that the company reformulate its products following scattered reports of harm. At the time, it also issued a notice to the public about the possible danger posed by them and the company issued a voluntary recall. But the FDA continued to receive reports of suspected poisonings and deaths after 2010, which led to the agency's more direct warning in 2016.
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