Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

Homeopathic teething products are being investigated in the deaths of 10 babies

Stop using these products.

FIONA MACDONALD
13 OCT 2016
 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating a link between homeopathic teething products and adverse reactions in more than 400 babies - including seizures, shortness of breath, vomiting, and constipation. At least 10 children have died so far.

Many major pharmacies have since pulled the products from their shelves, and the FDA has warned parents to "stop using these products and dispose of any in their possession".

 

Homeopathy is a practice that took off in the early 1800s, and is based on the unsupported idea that by exposing patients to an incredibly tiny and diluted dose of something that makes them sick, it will help the body build up tolerance to it.

Despite the fact that there's no scientific evidence that homeopathic treatments work, many people still buy into the products - the US has recorded more than US$6.4 billion in retail sales on homeopathic medicines in 2012 alone, including many popular teething remedies.

The FDA first alerted parents to the potential health risks of these homeopathic products back in 2010, when it put out a statement warning consumers about belladonna toxicity in Hyland's Teething Tablets.

Belladona, better known as deadly nightshade, is a highly poisonous plant. While it's been used as a painkiller in the past, its effects are highly unpredictable (which is why it's also been used as a poison).

Since that first warning, the FDA has received more than 400 reports of adverse reactions that could potentially be related to homeopathic teething products, including 10 deaths.

To be clear, so far these incidences haven't been officially linked to the homeopathic products, and the FDA doesn't have enough evidence to issue a recall. But they're still in the process of investigation, which includes testing numerous product samples.

 

"It is important to note that while adverse event reports give us some information about a product and serious injuries or deaths related to use of a particular product, they often indicate situations that require additional analysis and do not constitute conclusive evidence of a problem with the product," the FDA told Bloomberg via email.  

In the meantime, the FDA is taking the claims seriously. On September 30, it issued a statement warning patients not to use the products, and CVS pharmacies have since taken all homeopathic teething remedies off their shelves.

The agency also reminded parents that it didn't know of any proven health benefits of the homeopathic teething products, and told Bryan Menegus over at Gizmodo that it "does not approve homeopathic drugs".

Homeopathic company Hyland's - who had belladonna in their teething tablets - reluctantly announced on October 11 that they would be discontinuing the teething products, in a letter that's been criticised a "non-apology".

"This decision was made in light of the recent warning issued by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels. This warning has created confusion among parents and limited access to the medicines," Hyland's website explains. 

And despite the FDA's warning, the company claimed it was still "confident" that the products were safe for use.

There's currently no timeline for when the FDA might complete its investigation, but until then, it advises parents to stop using and get rid of all homeopathic teething products.

"Teething can be managed without prescription or over-the-counter remedies," said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research. "We recommend parents and caregivers not give homeopathic teething tablets and gels to children and seek advice from their health care professional for safe alternatives."

We'll keep you updated as more information becomes available.

More From ScienceAlert

Will Earth still exist in 5 billion years?

Lessons from a twin solar system.

1 day ago