8 ON YOUR SIDE: Homeopathic remedies could impact your health & wallet
By: Colleen Seitz
TAMPA (WFLA) - It's a $3 billion a year industry. But how safe are homeopathic drugs and remedies?
The Food and Drug Administration is now taking input on a crackdown on homeopathic remedies but not everyone is happy about it.
Dr. Edward Kondrot runs the Healing Eye and Wellness Center in Zephyrhills. You'll find it after taking a few dirt roads into what feels like the middle of nowhere. But this remote clinic has patients flying in from all over the world because of Kondrot's approach.
Kondrot wears two hats: He's a board certified ophthalmologist, but also a doctor of homeopathy.
"I know sometimes you need surgery. Sometimes you do need to take traditional medication, but the majority of times we need to look at a more gentler approach to treat the person and by that, I mean understanding the cause." Kondrot explains homeopathy treats the person, not the disease.
He began studying homeopathy when he faced his own battle with adult onset asthma. Traditional asthma medication cause tremors which isn't going to work when you're an eye surgeon. That's what prompted him to look for an alternative care and he found it in homeopathy.
"I know it wasn't a placebo effect because the first remedy I took did very little for the asthma. It was the second remedy that cured my asthma."
Now Kondrot uses stem cells, light therapy and micro currents to treat eye problems.
"Close to 90 percent of people had an improvement of vision, which is shocking because these are people who have been told nothing can be done."
One of those patients is Wendy Littlepage who flies in from Colorado to be treated by Kondrot. Littlefield had a horrible reaction to the mainstream medication most doctors prescribe for glaucoma.
"One of the eye drops sent me to the emergency room and the other one gave me the worst headache of my life," she said.
Littlefield admits homeopathy isn't the answer for every medical problem.
"No, I wouldn't jeopardize my health and say, 'Oh, let me look up a remedy, I feel like I'm having a heart attack.' cause that's not prudent and any good homeopath would tell you to go to the emergency room." But she's a believer in Kondrot's homeopathic approach with her eye problems.
Dr. Drew Silverman is a skeptic. He says "natural doesn't mean safe."
Silverman is a doctor of pharmacy at Tampa General Hospital and his concern is that homeopathic remedies don't require FDA approval and, he says, that can sometimes be dangerous.
Take for example, complaints about Zicam, a nasal spray advertised as a cold remedy. "It was supposed to help relieve colds by spraying zinc in the nose, so what made the FDA look at this is there were 100-plus reports of people losing their sense of smell after using Zicam and never being able to get it back."
In 2016, the FDA warned parents against using a natural teething tablet containing bella donna. It's a toxic opiate derivative that has an unpredictable response in children under the age of 2. Silverman says, "Unregulated it can cause serious neurological side effects including seizures, which is what they found in these infants and children who were teething is they saw they were having seizures from this."
However, Kondrot believes, as a whole, homeopathic remedies are much safer than traditional medications. He says, "Are homeopathic remedies dangerous? Out of all the medical treatments that exist, homeopathy is by far the safest. There are over 100,000 deaths a year from traditional medication. A death from homeopathic remedies are unheard of."
Kondrot does concede a lack of oversight can be an issue.
"There are unscrupulous manufacturers and the concern now is foreign material coming into the U.S. that may not be under the same guidelines."
He also points out that "most of the homeopathic remedies manufactured in the United States are by certified homeopathic pharmacies."
And those remedies, for the most part, are much less expensive than traditional medications. But Kondrot says, "Unfortunately, it's not covered by insurance so some people will go for a $10,000 operation because it's covered by insurance, but they're not going to pay $10 for a homeopathic remedy because it's not covered by insurance."