Magician James Randi, who has devoted the latter part of his career to exposing fraud, scams and charlatans, and a network of skeptics known as the 10:23 Campaign launched a major campaign Saturday against the manufacturers of so-called homeopathic drugs, charging that the companies that sell the drugs are packaging worthless products that are cheating customers out of their money.
In an online video, Randi consumed an overdose of homeopathic sleeping pills to demonstrate that they have no effect, and skeptics elsewhere consumed large overdoses of other homeopathic drugs in similar demonstrations. Randi also offered $1 million of his own money to any manufacturer of a homeopathic product who could prove that the product actually worked as claimed, and challenged major retailers like CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens to remove the products from their shelves.
"Consumers have the right to know what they are buying," he said. "No one should walk out of a drugstore with a homeopathic product without knowing these basic facts: There is no credible evidence that the product does what it says. There is not one bit -- not a single atom -- of the claimed 'active ingredient' in the package, and no U.S. health agency has tested or approved the product."
Homeopathy was invented in 1796 by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, apparently solely out of his imagination. He reasoned, without any physical proof, that if a chemical compound such as arsenic caused symptoms such as poisoning in high doses, then low doses of the same compound could reverse those symptoms, curing the problem. The therapy was achieved by diluting the chemical to such high dilutions, however, that none of the active ingredient actually remained in the drug. Advocates claim that the water retains some mystical "memory" of the chemical that has curative power, but no clinical trial has ever shown a homeopathic remedy to be effective -- and there have been lots of them. Nonetheless, the true believers continue to believe. Randi hopes to begin changing that.