The Harms of Nosodes
The full protection provided by vaccinations against infectious disease depends upon a high enough percentage of the population being vaccinated. This protection, known as “herd immunity”, ensures that the disease will not spread very far if one person is infected and that the disease will be stopped in its tracks.
While we do not have a national program to track current immunization rates, recent outbreaks of pertussis and measles1,2,3 and regional evidence of falling immunization rates4,5 reflect a growing distrust of vaccines and a decrease in herd immunity.
The use of nosodes in place of vaccines contributes to the lowering of herd immunity and therefore represents a threat to the health and safety of all Canadians. Accordingly, the continued licensure of nosodes by the Natural Health Products Directorate, sold by homeopaths and naturopaths and available widely across Canada as over-the-counter products for self-care is contributing to this public health problem.
The purpose, as listed in the NHPD database, “to be used on the advice of a healthcare practitioner” reassures a patient who has been urged to use nosodes as vaccine substitutes by a healthcare provider that the advice they are receiving is likely to be sound. Nothing on the product label or the product monograph would alert them to the fact that the use of nosodes for vaccination is unsupported by science and not condoned by Health Canada.
The current standards call for a minimum dilution, which means that you cannot sell a concentrated product. This implies that there are no harmful biological agents in the preparations. However, they fail to consider the risk to the consumer from using a product that is biologically inactive as medicine. Nosodes are promoted as effective vaccine substitutes, so without a specific warning against the use of nosodes for vaccination or the prevention of disease Health Canada cannot be reasonably assured that nosodes will not be used for this purpose. Further, the legitimacy that the NHPD license confers on these products only increases the chances that Canadians will trust these products to work in the way that promoters claim.
Note: since the original publication of this page, Health Canada has added a warning to the labeling standards of nosodes. Now the label must state that “This product is not intended to be an alternative to vaccination.” Despite this, practitioners may continue to prescribe these products as alternatives as these prescribing rights are outside the jurisdiction of Health Canada to enforce. Sept. 21, 2013
A Word About Good Manufacturing Processes
In 2009 the World Health Organization published a technical document discussing safety issues in the preparation of homeopathic medicines. In it, they note that homeopathic nosodes preparations constitute potential safety hazards, even at high dilutions, due to the nature of the source materials. They also note key differences between homeopathic pharmacopoeia preparation standards that practically result in homeopathic potencies not being interchangeable6 It is unclear whether the minimum acceptable dilutions for nosodes takes this into account.
It is important to note that that the nature of nosodes demands a higher standard of safety than Health Canada currently applies to them. Indeed on page 4 of the WHO document they note the following:
“…because many homeopathic medicines can be purchased as non-prescription medicines in community pharmacies and health stores, without consultation with a healthcare provider, it has become increasingly important to provide sufficient and accessible information on such medicines. Although homeopathic medicines are generally assumed to be benign, the level of authorization, appropriate labelling and quality assurance should take into consideration its extensive use, also within vulnerable populations such as the elderly, pregnant women and children”.
- Alphonso, C. (2012). Whooping cough makes deadly return across Canada. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/whooping-cough-makes-deadly-return-across-canada/article4436946/. Accessed Feb 15 2013. ↩
- CBC News (2011). Quebec battling major measles outbreak. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2011/10/27/mtl-measlesoutbreak.html . Accessed Feb. 15 2013. ↩
- French, J. Hamilton, C. (2012). First measles outbreak in 15 years in Saskatoon Health Region. Leader-Post. http://www.leaderpost.com/health/First+measles+outbreak+years/7445904/story.html. Accessed Feb. 15 2013. ↩
- Lunau, K. Patriquin, M. (2012). Asking for an outbreak of preventable diseases. MacLeans Magazine. http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/01/09/asking-for-an-outbreak/. Accessed Feb. 15 2013. ↩
- Suttorp, V. (2012). Memo to Southern Zone Physicians, re: pertussis outbreak – South Zone /El # 174. Alberta Health Services. March 16 2012. ↩
- World Health Organization (2009). Safety issues in the preparation of
homeopathic medicines. WHO Press. Geneva. ↩