Mozi-Q is a product developed and sold by Canadian company Xerion Dispensary, and marketed as an insect repellant. But it’s effectively just a sugar pill. Mozi-Q is a “homeopathic” remedy which means that it has no active or medicinal ingredients. Homeopathy is a disproved alternative medicine system where the “remedies” are based on substances that are repeatedly diluted to the point that few, if any, molecules of the any original ingredients actually remain. Not surprisingly, there is no published evidence to demonstrate Mozi-Q works as an insect repellant. For the back story on how this product came to be approved by Health Canada despite a lack of evidence, see the older posts When homeopathy is approved as an insect repellent, there’s a serious regulatory problem and the follow-up, Mozi-Q – “Insect repellent you eat”. But does it work? In short, Mozi-Q is approved for sale only because it is considered a “Natural Health Product” by Health Canada. Under these circumstances, there are effectively no evidence standards required to market a product with medicinal or therapeutic claims.
How do you know if an insect repellent really works? You stick your arm in a box with insects. The US Environmental Protection Agency specifies testing requirements in detail. Its approval process outlines the duration of any product’s effectiveness as well as detailed descriptions of the efficacy and safety evaluations. In Canada, similar regulation rests with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Yet this testing doesn’t appear to have been done with Mozi-Q. When I asked the PMRA how Mozi-Q could possibly be approved, they deferred to Health Canada. Regrettably Health Canada approved Mozi-Q, yet there’s no published evidence to show it actually meets insect repellent requirements in Canada.
Mozi-Q Hits Dragons’ Den
When I heard that Mozi-Q was going to be on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, I was hoping for something like Mark Cuban’s appearance on Shark Tank, when he called out a complete scam as a placebo. Unfortunately that didn’t occur on the CBC, where most of the Dragons were credulous:
The dialogue is interesting for anyone interested in the profit margins on homeopathy. It’s claimed Mozi-Q costs $4.78 to produce, and it is sold for $24.95. Kevin O’Leary is absolutely correct when he exclaims “Those margins are good!” and later calls them “succulent”. Frankly I expected the margins to be even higher given these tablets contain no medicine. The only skepticism came from Arlene Dickinson, who correctly pointed out the absence of clinical data, particularly for a product that people ingest. The other Dragons just seemed blinded by the profit potential, ignoring the weak evidence she offers- a study from the 1960’s. There actually is a published report that does date back to 1965, and it’s not available. There are no other published studies with that ingredient since that time. There’s also a US patent registration from 1956, claiming that staphsagria is an effective insect repellent. No evidence of a formal evaluation is described. Given the accumulated evidence on homeopathy has overwhelmingly failed to show any meaningful effects, it’s highly implausible that the product has any effects whatsoever. In any case, it would be easy to prove if it does work – it could be evaluated like every other insect repellent on the market, and subjected to proper testing. Yet that hasn’t been done.
The company’s owner claims she wants to break into the US market, so she’s seeking $100,000 – and she gets it, from two other Dragons. I think she and the funders are going to be disappointed. In the United States, the regulator is very clear: A product like Mozi-Q is unlikely to every be approved for sale, as there is a federal regulation on oral insect repellents in place, which notes (emphasis added):
Labeling claims for OTC orally administered insect repellent drug products are either false, misleading, or unsupported by scientific data. Any OTC drug product that is labeled, represented, or promoted for oral use as an insect repellent is regarded as a new drug within the meaning of section 201(p) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for which an approved new drug application under section 505 of the act and part 314 of this chapter is required for marketing. In the absence of an approved new drug application, such product is also misbranded under section 502 of the act. Clinical investigations designed to obtain evidence that any drug product labeled, represented, or promoted OTC for oral use as an insect repellent is safe and effective for the purpose intended must comply with the requirements and procedures governing the use of investigational new drugs set forth in part 312 of this chapter.
If only those regulations were in place in Canada. I don’t think the Dragons will be hurt that much – they’re only out $100,000. Sadly, it’s consumers that rely on Mozi-Q that will be the ones that really get stung.