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.

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