Homeopaths claim that homeopathy is safe because it is non-toxic and therefore harmless; regulators license homeopathic products on the basis of historical use and because they contain no active ingredients so are considered harmless.
But do harmless and safe mean the same thing? As many skeptics know, there are potentially dangerous adverse consequences to believing in useless replacements for conventional medicine when you’re ill (see whatstheharm.net for examples), and there is also a danger when you rely on ineffective products to protect you against harm.
Mozi-Q is, as its manufacturers loudly trumpet, licensed by Health Canada. They claim that it is a 100% safe “natural” mosquito repellant. But it’s homeopathic, so we know that is unlikely to be true.
The manufacturer’s page “what is Mozi-Q?” gives more detail:
Has it been studied?
In the ’60s a homeopath by the name of HR. Trexler studied Staphysagria for its effectiveness at preventing mosquito bites. In a study of 421 subjects over a 4 year period, he found this remedy to be 90% effective.
Whoa! OneÂ study by a homeopathÂ in the 60s. That falls so far short of credible scientific evidence it’s not funny. Homeopaths are notorious for the poor quality of their research. There is no suggestion here of double-blinded randomisation, and no sign of replication by anyone – not even other homeopaths committed to finding rather than testing evidence.
Boiron are under attack in the Canadian courts for selling bogus remedies for flu. What is going to happen to the manufacturers of Mozi-Q when someone is bitten and contracts malaria as a result of using a mosquito repellant for which there appears to be Â no credible evidence? The word “doomed” may well fit this case.
No, harmless does not mean safe. If you are at risk of mosquito bite or malaria, relying on unproven products based on magical thinking sounds like a truly terrible idea.
It should be pointed out that Mozi-Q are making a huge play out of being “licensed by Health Canada”, a process during which they have had to provide exactly no evidence of efficacy. This is, in my view, an excellent example of why quackery should notÂ under any circumstances be licensed or regulated by the bodies which regulate actual medicine. Everything with a registration number from a government health regulator should be backed by the same standard of clinical evidence. I would also make initial licensing time-limited, with extension contingent on meta-analysis; several medicines have been withdrawn after such analysis, it seems prudent to perform it as a matter of course.