British MPs Tell Gov’t: Stop Funding Homeopathy

In a clear statement on the absurdity of public funding and regulation of homeopathy, British MPs instructed government to stop paying for homeopathy, shut down homeopathic hospitals, cease all homeopathy clinical trials, and to crack down on homeopathic efficacy claims.

Committee chairman Phil Willis MP said; “We were seeking to determine whether the Government’s policies on homeopathy are evidence based on current evidence. They are not.”

Homeopathy doesn’t work. It can’t work. If it did, physics, biochemistry and pharmacology as pharmacists know it would be false. Yet this elaborate placebo system persists, supported in part by the pharmacy profession, which seems comfortable selling products with no active ingredients and no evidence of efficacy.

I have blogged previously about the British inquiry into homeopathy, the public relations disaster for Boots the Chemist (selling their own store brand of homeopathy), and the effectiveness of the “10-23″ protesters, who staged a mass homeopathic overdose, where, not surprisingly, nothing untoward happened to anyone.

The final report from the British inquiry has been released. It scrutinized government policies on homeopathy, and gives direction to the National Health Service.  But the recommendations apply to any country (like Canada) that legitimizes homeopathy. Continue reading

Does Coenzyme Q10 Relieve Statin-Induced Muscle Pain?

Editor’s Note:

Today’s guest post is from a pharmacist who blogs under the pseudonym Avicenna, who looks at the evidence supporting the use of Coenzyme Q10 to treat statin-related muscle pain.

My pharmacy stocks plenty of natural health products (NHPs) and ensuring they can be used safely is challenging, given the limited information available on safety, quality, purity, and efficacy. Answering patient questions is always interesting and often very challenging, as they can often be non-specific. A typical question like “Is product ‘X’ good for treating condition ‘Y’?” can be difficult to answer without gathering some further information.  My usual response is, “Let’s talk about this. I want to make sure I give you an answer that is right for you, given your medical conditions.”

I recently spoke with a patient taking atorvastatin (Lipitor), a cholesterol-lowering medication from the “statin” family, who was complaining about muscle pain, and asking about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) for treating that pain. Treating or preventing statin-related muscle pain is a common question, given the popularity of statins and the frequency of the complaint: About 1 in 15 develop this symptom. Before diving into the efficacy of CoQ10, let’s review statins.

Statin Benefits

If you have high blood pressure, are overweight, diabetic, or sedentary, you should know your cholesterol levels: Keeping them in the normal range will lower your death risk in the short and long term.[1] If you need drug therapy to reduce your cholesterol levels, you’re probably on a statin. Statins are a class of highly effective cholesterol-lowering drugs that work to inhibit HMG-CoA [3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA] reductase. Statins work by lowering cholesterol points (e.g., low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides) and/or moderately increasing good cholesterol (i.e., high density lipoprotein (HDL)). High levels of “bad” cholesterol is a contributor to heart disease and other negative cardivascular outcomes. It clogs the arteries that feed oxygen to the heart, and is involved in the process of blood clot formation. Continue reading

Part Fills for February 12

In pharmacy-speak, “part fills” allow a pharmacist to divide a prescription into smaller amounts. In the case of Science-Based Pharmacy, I’m going to use the label to highlight hot topics, related reading, and relevant material on other blogs. I hope you find these links informative:

Homeopathy: After the 10-23 protests that I’ve already blogged about, the pressure on pharmacies to stop selling homeopathy continues to intensify. Complaints have been lodged with Britain’s national health regulator about references to homeopathy on the Boots pharmacy website. Meanwhile, the UK pharmacy regulator hides behind the fact that homeopathy is federally approved to justify the ongoing sale. And from New Zealand, they’re asking What are homeopathy remedies doing in New Zealand pharmacies? As a compromise, the Quackometer proposes a possible labelling system for homeopathic remedies in pharmacies.  The pressure on pharmacies is not going to let up. It’s increasingly clear that 2010 will be the year that pharmacies worldwide will have to justify why they profit from ‘remedies” with no evidence of efficacy and no active ingredients.

Vaccines: Following findings that Andrew Wakefield’s actions were “irresponsible and dishonest,” the Lancet has now fully retracted the paper that set off the “vaccines cause autism” manufactrovery, drove vaccination rates down, and made measles an endemic infection again in the United Kingdom. Dr. Steven Novella sums up the debacle at Science-Based Medicine, and Anthony Cox gives a UK pharmacist’s perspective at Black Triangle.  Liz Ditz has a complete compilation of articles, from those applauding the retraction, to the antivaccinationists that consider Wakefield a martyr.

For more about Andrew Wakefield, listen to Skeptically Speaking next Friday, February 19, where I’ll be joining Dr. Chris MacDonald and Dr. Nancy Walton with host Desiree Schell as we discuss the ethics, controversy, and public health consequences of the Wakefield paper.

Natural Health Products: In January, I blogged that the Ontario College of Pharmacists has ordered unapproved natural health products off pharmacy shelves. To my dismay, pharmacists and pharmacies seem to be taking this directive lightly – some are calling it a “suggestion” and refusing to pull products.  It’s an embarrassment to the profession: putting profits before patients. The directive caught the National Post’s attention recently with an article by Tom Blackwell.  The comments are worth reading, for a mix of Big Pharma conspiracies, complaints about a nanny state (hint: you can still buy unapproved products elsewhere), and cries for “health freedom” (freedom to sell unapproved products, it seems).

Vitamins: With a handful of exceptions, vitamin supplements are unnecessary and offer no meaningful health benefits. This quick overview by Get Better Health explains. Look for some in depth reviews over the next few months on this blog.

Understanding Evidence: Tips for Understanding Drug Studies: Association versus causation. An excellent article the explains why, in an observational study, you cannot draw a link between cause and effect. This a very common mistake in the media, and this article explains how to look for it and what to do about it.

Skeptic North: If you’re not following the Skeptic North blog, check out these excellent posts: The Naturopath Identity Crisis, Picking Apart Raw Food, the 10-23 Homeopathy Protests, and the pH Balancing Myth. Also check out my posts, Mass Homeopathic Overdose Kills No-One, Victory Declared, and When it Comes to Libel Chill, it’s Good to be a Canadian.

Neti Pots for Sinus Congestion: Validated science?

Neti PotNeti pots have moved from the fringe to the mainstream over the past few years. Traditionally used to treat sinus problems, their popularity exploded in 2007 when Oprah covered them on her show. Requests flooded the pharmacy I worked at. The pharmacy’s owner ordered in a case, and they  disappeared in days. Given Oprah’s poor record at identifying credible sources of medical information, I was skeptical. But given the limited efficacy of drugs for congestion, physical removal with water seemed reasonable, whether with a neti pot, or simply snorting water out of the sink. It was clear to me that uncontrolled sinus congestion problems were not rare, because pouring a cupful of water into your nostril isn’t something one will do on a whim. Continue reading