Boiron: Give Customers a Refund for Your Fake Medicine

Carrie Poppy was feeling sick a month ago, so she (knowingly) purchased ColdCalm, a homeopathic “remedy” that has no actual potency to it.

Actually, she took a lot of it. Double the dosage. To no one’s surprise, nothing bad happened to her.

But, since Carrie’s a wonderful skeptic, she called both the poison control center and Boiron Laboratories (which makes ColdCalm) to hear what they had to say about her overdose. She also got it all on video :)

There’s a petition calling on Boiron to refund the customers they scammed — right now, the company only refunds the money if you write them within two weeks, well within the amount of time it takes for most colds to heal themselves.

Boiron is selling people fake medicine and profiting off their misinformation, knowing that by the time their customers have found out the truth, it will likely be past the chance for a refund on their bogus product. Will you join me and the JREF in telling Boiron to refund any customer who ever bought their products? If you’ve bought Boiron products and want your money back, “add a reason” when you sign, and say so!

Sign that now and spread the message that a company selling scam products doesn’t deserve anyone’s business.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Andrew Morgan

    Can’t lie: there are many days when I would sell homeopathic medicine to people dumb enough to take it.  After who knows how many conversations where people eye those boxes in stores, and I tell them they don’t do anything, and they give me grief about how we can’t know everything and “lots of people take them,” it’s hard not to think: “You know what, fuck it, I’m starting a homeopathic medicine company.  Give me your money.”

  • paul

    Homeopathy is, like the lottery, a tax on stupid. If you’re dumb enough to give them money then you don’t get to bitch about it afterward

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      Except the lottery actually works for some people. In a real, non-placebo way. :-P

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       I disagree.  The companies that produce these sham products put a lot of time and effort into making them seem legitimate.  They even produce sham single-blind studies to prop up their claims.  It’s unfair to expect people to be experts in everything.

    • Daniel M

      Also that seems rather callous. I don’t believe anyone deserves to be scammed because they’re less intelligent.

    • bismarket

      Do you keep a list of people your more intelligent than, is it very long?

  • Pvp1961

    I’m as skeptic as they come, but don’t discount the placebo effect… It’s well documented.

    • FSq

      As a point of fact, the US FDA conducted studies over a 20 year period and concluded that the placebo effect is actually much of a canard, like humans only using 5 percent of their brains. The placebo effect is effective in about 2.3 percent of cases, so it really isn’t that well documented.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Really?  I’ll have to look for that, because I thought:

          
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsFTgirKXHkand for a real mind blower, noceobo (this one is a bit NSFW at the start) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1Q3jZw4FGs

    • Charon

       Yes, for subjective symptoms (e.g., pain). Not for objective endpoints. I’m not willing to go quite as far as Mark Crislip (the infectious diseases specialist at Science-Based Medicine and say there is no placebo effect, but he does make some decent arguments.

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       The placebo effect is overstated.  A lot of if it just statistical regression to the mean (people who would have gotten better even if left completely alone), but their improvement gets attributed to the placebo.

      • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

        Regression to the mean.

    • amyc

      Medicines in double blinded studies are usually measured AGAINST a placebo. That means, if the medicine doesn’t do better than the placebo, then it didn’t work. The “placebo effect” is not some magic brain power actually overcoming sickness, it’s a statistical regression to the mean that has been over-hyped in popular culture.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Sure, but tap water is a hell of a lot cheaper.

  • Drew Bentley

    “But, since Carrie’s a wonderful skeptic…”

    I find that hard to believe, a wonderful skeptic could have read the active ingredients on the box or bottle it came in and should have realized that it would have done nothing to help.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

      I’m pretty sure she knew it wouldn’t work when she took it. I think that’s the point.

    • Anonymous

       Whoosh!

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

         *ducks*

        Was that another deadline? Crap…

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      Seriously? Didn’t cross your mind that, as a skeptic who runs a podcast whose entire theme is going out and participating in the things the rest of us debunk so they can see their effects for themselves, that maybe, just maybe, that’s what she was doing here, knowing full well that they have no effect? That that’s the entire reason she recorded the process from beginning to end?

    • http://www.facebook.com/carriepoppy Carrie Poppy

      Hey Drew Bentley. Take heart: I don’t roll cameras when I take an aspirin. ;)

  • Barb_lauber

    Taking pills every 15 minutes until you feel better is going to sell a lot of pills for Boiron.

    It’s hard to blame people for assuming that a product being sold in a drug store, right next legitimate medicines,  is legitimate. We need to make it easy for drugstores to the right thing and stop selling this crap. Make it illegal, just as we’ve done (in Canada) with selling tobacco products in drugstores. If we can’t ban homeopathic nonremedies entirely, at least we could banish them to the shelves of health food and supplement stores.

    While we’re at it, wny not require prominent labels on homeopathic products identifying them as such and stating that they’re a con job.

    plum grenville.

  • Cantremembermyemailaddress

    I think I have reached acronym saturation point, whats a JREF, nothing to do with java I am assuming?

  • Anonymous

    It irks me every time I’m in a pharmacy and I see homeopathic crap like this. The fact is that many people, regardless of their level of education, are simply not aware that they are being sold a placebo. The very presence of these so-called “remedies” in the cold & flu section of a pharmacy lends them undue legitimacy.  We trust these businesses with our health every time we get a prescription filled. People don’t expect to be ripped off and lied to just down the aisle from the pharmacist’s counter.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I totally *LOVE* Carrie’s free PODCAST, “Oh, No, Ross and Carrie!”

    In their podcast, they check out crazy claims and report on their experiences (e.g. going to acupuncture, Tarot card readings, Sikh religion services, and they spent over 6-months kinda infiltrating the LDS church even going so far as to officially be baptized into Mormonism!).

    Well worth checking out on iTunes of on their website: http://www.ohnopodcast.com/

  • Anonymous

    Interestingly enough, at least one study has indicated that the active ingredient in the PE formulations of Sudafed isn’t effective when taken orally. 

    • Marty

      Totally anecdotal, but I find Sudafed PE and other Phenylephrine remedies to be mostly useless. The pain goes away eventually (which could be the paracetemol in the same pill), but the old Sudafed with pseudopephedrine was much more effective on me. The really old, original sudafed with ephedrine, that stuff worked amazingly fast (and then I would climb walls and jump onto the roof). 

      • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

         You are a golden god.

    • Kc

      Phenylephrine (the active ingredient in PE formulations) is less bioavailable than pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in behind-the-counter formulations), and therefore not everyone sees a benefit from the PE formulations. My advice, just go to the pharmacy counter and get the real deal.

      • Guest

        Pseudophedrine is still available in most of Canada in front of the counter. Phenylephrine is junk. It’s too bad that people use the good stuff to make nasty nasty things.

    • Wintermute

       If you do enough studies, you’re going to get an anomalous result. Which is why it’s the totality of the data that matters, and not the outlier.

      • Anonymous

        As far as I can tell (without doing a ton of research), it’s fairly evenly split in terms of whether PE is more effective than a placebo, and if so how much more effective. That’s hardly an outlier.  You can’t make meth out of it, however, which makes it an appealing alternative to pseudoephedrine in the eyes of the law.

    • http://twitter.com/beesarecoming MaKaeru

      Phenylephrine is deactivated in the stomach by MAO’s (monoamine oxidase). MAO’s are important because they stop things like tyramine, an amino acid found in a lot of dairy products, from getting straight in to your blood stream and being converted into a very high dose of adrenaline. Most PE tablets come with an “enteric coating” of some sort that supposedly survives the stomach and doesn’t dissolve until it reaches the small intestine, where the PE can be absorbed. Nevertheless, orally taken pure PE would never get a chance to be absorbed.

  • Shawnnmstar

    I just wanted to put my two cents in and say the Boiron’s product Sinusalia has worked WONDERS for me.  I have two kids and every time they brought home a cold, I would end up getting a sinus infection. I used to get them at least once a month or every other month.  Now if I feel like something is coming on, I take these tablets under my tongue a couple of times and I don’t get anything.  I haven’t had a sinus infection in over two years. Placebo effect?  Probably not… I don’t care because it’s saving my body and my wallet from endless antibiotics which are far more costly to my health and my paycheck than a ten dollar vial of homeopathic tablets.

    • Alex

       You are aware that antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections such as common cold, right?

      • Wintermute

         Also loving the claim that $10/bottle homeopathy is so much cheaper than antibiotics, given that you can probably get amoxicillin for pennies a pill. I think some health plans even provide them free of charge.

        • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

          My doctor throws Amoxicillin at me every chance he gets.

          • Daniel M

            I think you should seek out a new doctor. That’s no way for a trained medical professional to behave.

    • Rhodent

      I’m sure everyone here is going to be highly impressed by an anecdotal claim from someone that we’ve never heard of before (and I know no one here has ever heard of you because this post of yours is literally the sum total of your activity on ANY site using Disqus.). 

      I’d ask if there is any evidence to support your claim, but I think we all know the answer to that.

    • Marty

      If I put a sock on my hand and ask my new friend if he’s had a sinus infection for two years, he’d give the same answer. Sockpuppets don’t get sinus infections. 

    • HA2

      You have ‘placebo effect’? with a question mark, as if you don’t know.

      But some people do know, because it’s been tried. Compare homeopathic medicine to placebo. Taking those homeopathic pills literally does no better than doing nothing at all.

      But, for a cold, antibiotics are also just a placebo. There isn’t a cure for the common cold, antibiotics only deal with bacterial infections.

      Instead of spending $10 on homeopathic pills, do something better – find something that’s actually healthful. Make yourself a cup of hot tea, eat an apple.

      • http://www.facebook.com/LucyM121 Lucy Merriman

        In defense of doctors, some doctors prescribe anti-biotics for people with a virus to kill any potentially harmful bacteria lurking in their systems, thus freeing up their bodies’ natural defenses to fight the virus. I know this has been the case for me, as I have an immune system that’s already weakened, and I know being on anti-biotics helps me get over colds that may otherwise (and have in the past) turn into dangerous infections. 

    • Shawnnmstar

      Jeez…calm down everyone.  I am a real person and I have taken tons of antibiotics that have wreaked havoc on my system…  Sorry if I don’t IMPRESS you.  I was just posting in case someone else was in my position and maybe it would help them.

      The reason I’ve never posted here before is that I just found the site a day or two ago when I donated to Jessica’s college fund. 

      The only “evidence” I have is that it seems to work for me.  If it helps someone else, great…your aren’t out a doctor visit fee, time off work and the cost of Amoxi (which is way more than 10 bucks with my insurance and is the only drug that worked on my sinus infections).  I tried them all.

      The reason I put a question mark after placebo effect was that I was making it like a question and then answering it myself.  I’m not an idiot.  And I do drink tea, take vitamins, exercise and eat apples.

      I thought this was a website where people respect other people’s views and are open to new ideas or different ways of thinking….wow.

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    Dude this is a great ad for Sudafed. lol Why don’t companies that sell actual medicine have ads debunking homeopathy?

    • amyc

      Haha, I was just thinking that exact same thing. If poison control can outright tell you that the pills do nothing, then why can’t commercials for real medicine do the same thing? It’s not like they can be sued for libel, because the homeopathy companies would have to prove that their pills do work. The would be a fun circus to watch.

  • Nan Chung

    most people do not understand how to prescribe homeopathic medicines, and i am talking single, not combination medicines.  they do, in fact, have a remarkable effect when properly indicated and prescribed.  they work in many cases where the placebo effect is simply not an option:  tiny babies, animals, old people, mentally handicapped people, and even passed-out people.  perhaps this one product is no good, or perhaps this person didn’t understand how to recognize homeopathic indications or prescribe.  in any event, you are throwing out “the baby with the bath water” by saying, “therefore,  homeopathics all do not work.”   this is very faulty logic, reasoning from one particular case to a generalization. 

    • http://www.miketheinfidel.com/ MikeTheInfidel

      they do, in fact, have a remarkable effect when properly indicated and prescribed.

      “Wow! This is just like a placebo!” he remarked.

      they work in many cases where the placebo effect is simply not an option:  tiny babies, animals, old people, mentally handicapped people, and even passed-out people.

      Except that the placebo effect absolutely does work in all of these cases.

      in any event, you are throwing out “the baby with the bath water” by saying, “therefore,  homeopathics all do not work.”   this is very faulty logic, reasoning from one particular case to a generalization.

      I don’t think you know how homeopathy “works.” Take a substance that causes a symptom, dilute it until you’ve reached a point where there is literally nothing left, then drip the water you diluted it into onto a sugar pill. There is no active ingredient. The only possible explanation is placebo. To say that homeopathy actually works is to utterly throw out the laws of physics.

      • Guest

        There’s two things that we like when examining whether a medicine is useful:

        1) An explanation as to its method of operation
        2) Clinical studies showing its efficacy

        Sometimes we don’t get (1) immediately, because biology is complicated stuff.

        In this case, however, (1) needs to be something that directly contradicts most or all of physics, chemistry, and biology. So we have absolutely no reason to believe that it should work, or have any effect on a lifeform at all (above and beyond what water, or whatever solid substance is involved in the solid ‘remedies’, has).

        We also don’t have (2). At all. All well-conducted studies show that Homeopathy is no more effective than placebo. And what do you know, this jives with our lack of (1), which is pretty solid combined evidence that homeopathy is complete and utter bunk.

  • Gunstargreen

    I don’t know what makes me madder, the fact that scams like this exist or that they’re being sold in what are supposed to be reputable, corporate drug stores like Rite Aid.

  • bismarket

    Homeopathic & Ayurvedic “Meds” helped me to become housebound years before it was necessary, this stuff still makes me so angry, as well as signing, i’m gonna make a YouTube vid & think hard about what more i can do to help stop these crooks.

  • Paul_Robertson

    The only problem here is that she substituted one placebo for another. The phenylephrene that she took in the last frame has not been demonstrated to be effective. It is an unsatisfactory substitute for real medicine that owes its existence to the “war on drugs”. I’d like to see the makers of phenylephrene set aside a pool of money for refunds and change their labelling also.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2000711/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17264159


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