Legislate on Snake Oil

Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) form a potent coalition defending the impotent concoctions of the snake oil industry.

I understand that the purveyors of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM, for short) have always had a friendly ear in Congress. That is, a friendly pocket. In addition to those individuals, the recent fashion of acting the part of quasi-Libertarian kook has taken the lower house by storm. Among the numerous incongruous ideas that Antiregulators blather about is that all regulation is bad. In particular, regulation with the potential to cut into the profits of decent wealtho-Americans is simply unacceptable. Clean water and a safe work environment are only the tip of the iceberg of disasters waiting to befall those who would let down their guard.

In such an environment, then, I would take a step with which the anti-governmentarians couldn’t reasonably take issue. Granted, reason is hardly a disqualifying factor for producing excremental arguments on the basis of “Freedom! Or something.”

My proposal is this: any treatment that the FDA does not currently look at may continue to receive the preferential status it currently enjoys as a “health supplement.” But the poultice, potion, or tincture of [insert natural or mysterious sounding name here] would be clearly labeled as a “Quack Medicine.” As well, physicians would be required by law to report any noted effects suspected to be the result of quack concoctions. Ironically, some quack medicines which purport to contain minuscule doses of the ichor of exotic plant or animal parts would actually lose their preferred status as a true quack medicine if the mixture were found to actually contain any of the substance.

I used to give my child colic pills that proved effective. I was shocked to see that the pills were supposedly homeopathic. They were similar to antacid tablets, in their chalky consistency. They felt similar in the mouth as well. The non-scientific conclusion would be that the producer was using an actual effective treatment, but bypassing any quality control or other FDA regulations by slapping on a nonsense label.

Just a thought that will never come to fruition so long as quackery is so damned profitable…

By marc

I am a scientist interested in laser safety, modeling and simulation, and statistics. I speak some Spanish, German, and Chinese.