Hooray, Target’s taking advantage of ignorant and desperate asthmatics!

… sarcasm alert for the title, obviously.

So, it came to my attention a few days ago that Target is selling a homeopathic “oral asthma spray” for asthma. I am incensed. It took me a day or so to calm down enough to write about it.

It is a commonly held misperception that asthma is mild, self-limiting and not something to worry about. I blame shit like the Goonies, where a kid who either has issues in addition to asthma or has dangerously uncontrolled asthma is played for laughs. I blame shit like damn near every 80s buddy cop movie where of course the fat guy was asthmatic because fat people and asthmatic people are just lazy, amirite? I blame shit like damn near every kid’s show that has ever done a special on asthma, where it’s portrayed as “take blue puffer and you’re fine.” Implication being that if you’re not fine, it’s your fault for not taking your meds appropriately. Historically, asthma was held to be more of a psychological disorder than a physical one, and as such, asthmatics get splash damage from mental illness ableism a lot.

Evidence of this public misconception of asthma is all over the place: See all the “willpower!” and “bootstraps!” and similar memes I get bugged with whenever I need to take my inhalers in public ever anywhere.  See the fact that it is not treated as a life-threatening illness by schools, who think it’s a-okay to leave inhalers in school offices or locked in teacher’s desks or anywhere other than with the student who might need it at all times because a severe asthma attack can go from zero to unconscious by the time you run, get the inhaler, and return. If someone is arsed to run and doesn’t just send the kid off alone to pass out in the hallway on the way (that happened to me as a kid. I’m lucky I didn’t die). 

But, as always, public perception is just. plain. wrong. Asthma is a serious illness. It can and does kill. Leaving asthma untreated can lead to a worsening of asthma and a type of permanent lung scarring called airway remodeling, which can cause irreversible airway obstruction.

Unfortunately, I can attest from experience that asthma meds are really fucking expensive. They’re more expensive in the States than they are here in Canada, but they’re still quite expensive here. If I didn’t have health insurance, I would pay more in medication than many people in my city pay in rent. This means that if you’re poor and lack health insurance, it’s hard to treat your asthma and pay for food, shelter, utilities, etc.

Plus, a lot of people just plain aren’t scientifically literate. They don’t know that homeopathy is basically magic water.

So, you have a poor person for whom real medicine puts them in “food, meds, or rent, pick two” territory, or you have a person who’s not quite so poor but is still struggling and is ignorant, and they see this piece of shit, and they go, “Oh, look at that. An asthma treatment I can actually afford! It says it’s not a rescue inhaler, but that might just mean it’s a control puffer like my doctor told me I should take. I know the doc said I should take [actual med], but this is so much cheaper. Know what? I’ll give it a try. What’s the harm?

Or you get someone who buys into “natural living” bullshit and goes to see a homeopath, who tells hir that medicine is unnatural and that they should try this homeopathic thing and doesn’t explicitly say that they should drop their real medicine, because that’s illegal in my country, but instead just heavily implies it.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this could fucking well kill someone. In fact, this sort of bullshit has killed at least one person already (Jackie Alderslade).

Allow me to be perfectly clear: Homeopathy does not work. There is no physical mechanism by which it could work. If it’s diluted properly, it is, in effect, the diluent (often water or sugar). It is a placebo.

Target is selling people magic water for a condition that, left untreated, could kill them. There are no words to describe how vehemently I despise this. I find it abhorrent and vile, dishonest and predatory. It is wrong. It is wrong, it is wrong, it is wrong, and I will scream to everyone I know at the top of my lungs: Do not support a company that sells desperate and vulnerable people stuff that doesn’t work. Do not let enable such quackery with your business. I beg you: write Target and let them know it’s not okay for them to take advantage of ignorant and desperate people this way.

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2 thoughts on “Hooray, Target’s taking advantage of ignorant and desperate asthmatics!

  1. autisticook says:

    One of the obfuscating issues with homeopathy is that herbal remedies are sold under the “homeopathy” label as well. And some of those actually do work (like valerian drops, or arnica cream). But that’s because they’re not magic water. And that is even more dangerous for people who might not know all these things, just like you’re saying. Especially when you’re not talking about simple bruises, but a life threatening condition.

  2. alexforshaw says:

    My wife has been diagnosed with asthma and emphysema (psoriasis too – autoimmune problems). As she is over 60 she now gets free prescriptions in the UK, but before that it did cost a *lot* for the medication that was the difference between living and dying. And that is *with* subsidized NHS prescriptions .

    As you are no doubt aware, emphysema is a degenerative condition – you don’t recover from it. I feel such anger that any company would suggest that a placebo (homeopathic “remedy”) could treat an illness like this without evidence. I don’t know what the situation is in Canada, but in the UK it is illegal to market something as a medicine without approval that verifies its effectiveness.

    To risk peoples’ lives in the pursuit of profit is worse than irresponsible: it is immoral and deserves to be criminal. It is taking advantage of vulnerable peoples’ trust and lack of knowledge: no better than a confidence trick. These snake oil merchants want jailing (in the absence of harsher punishments in these enlightened times)!

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