Slate published an expose by Yvette d’Entremont on CVS pharmacy’s sales of homeopathic products. According to the article, most consist of water or sugar, but one particular product is 40-proof alcohol. Read the whole thing for yourself. It is entertaining and informative.

What I find interesting is CVS’s response. “Homeopathic products are legal under federal law and regulated by FDA,” a spokesperson told Slate.

That’s how most companies can be expected to approach most business practices that generate revenue. However, CVS is different. While most drug stores and convenience stores sell cigarettes, CVS ceased selling tobacco products in September 2014, despite cigarettes being legal under federal law. According to Slate, they did so because they “wanted to be taken seriously as a health care company.”

Homeopathic products might not cause cancer, but using homeopathy to treat cancer, as some homeopaths advise, will cause the cancer to spread and remain untreated. How can CVS maintain credibility on health care when it sells “remedies” that have never been proven, in 1,800 studies, to work?

“Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs,” said Helena B. Foulkes, President of CVS/pharmacy [in a press release about banning tobacco products].

The indirect consequences of companies stocking flimflam are even worse if it contributes to an atmosphere where a significant portion of the public is comfortable distrusting and denying science. A growing number of people are resisting GMOs that could save lives and are having their children unvaccinated. To that end, the culture homeopathy thrives on can cause health problems for non-users, just like how secondhand some can cause health problems.

Roger Cohen, writing in The International New York Times, said about the gluten-free trend:

But of course the gluten-free trend is not just about multiplying celiac sufferers. People decide gluten must be bad for them because they see shelves full of gluten-free food at supermarkets.

Could some people be deciding on homeopathy after seeing shelves full of snake oil at supposedly health-conscious pharmacies? If CVS cares about its customers, they ought not stock it.