Celebrating Two Years of SBP

Science-Based Pharmacy hits its second birthday today.  Two years ago it started with this post on homeopathy, which I recognized as the most ludicrous “health” product I’d ever seen sold in a pharmacy, and one I felt seriously compromised the credibility of the pharmacy profession.  That assessment still stands. After two years, homeopathy remains as absurd as ever, but the public consciousness of this pseudoscience is growing. And since that first post, there’s been 120 more, earning 260,000 views, new pharmacist contributors, and even a few guest posts. The result? Some growing resonance in the pharmacy profession – and beyond. I was invited to join the influential and widely-read Science-Based Medicine blog in 2010, and I’m grateful to Drs. Gorski and Novella for the kind invitation to become the only pharmacist  contributing to their blog, where I can expand on some of the topics that have originated at this blog.

This blog, at it core, advocates for science and critical thinking with the goal of improving pharmacy practice, as well as informing personal decision-making about products sold in pharmacies. It aims to enhance the scientific literacy of both health professionals, and consumers, by scrutinizing the scientific evidence for products sold on both sides of the pharmacy counter.  Evaluating the scientific evidence for drugs and supplements, and blogging about it, requires a thick skin. When a critical appraisal doesn’t fit with someone’s preexisting conclusion, the insults and sometimes even threats arrive. Depending on your perspective, you may think of me as a neo-con,  a liberal, a “pseudo-skeptic”, “close minded”, a Communist, a Fascist, and/or a pharma shill. I’ve probably missed some other choice terms from the hundreds of comments received.

Why blog at all? A pharmacist colleague was baffled I’d spend 40+ hours to write a 2000 word post, and then put it online, for free, instead of submitting it to a pharmacy publication. I thought about it for a while, and realized that the interactive nature of blogging is what makes it worth the effort. Why write a long article, wait months for it to be published, collect $500 (perhaps) and then wait a few more months to see it in print, where it might be read by a few thousand pharmacists (at best)? Compare this to a single post that can get 200+ comments in a few days, and get thousands of views. Generating a dialogue and discussion on a subject you’re passionate about can be really rewarding. And this blog has provided that.

Pharmacists don’t generally tend to blog. A recent review seems to suggest this may be a good thing. Kevin Clauson and colleagues searched through the 184 million plus blogs and could only find 44 active, English-language blogs that they identified as pharmacist blogs in July 2009. (SBP was one of the blogs included in the dataset.)  They sought to understand their characteristics and potential impact on the profession. The results, from the profession’s perspective, are disappointing. Over two-thirds of the pharmacist bloggers blogged anonymously. 48% of blogs used “profane, explicit or unprofessional language,” mostly associated with the pharmacists that blog anonymously. Only about a third used positive language about the pharmacy profession, and only a quarter used positive language about patients or other health professionals. In fact, patients were criticized in almost 57% of blogs. The authors don’t hide their disappointment:

Overall the results of this study yielded a mixed picture of ranting and discourse among pharmacist bloggers.

And

What significant can be ascribed to The Angry Pharmacist and The Angriest Pharmacist being among the most influential and viewed pharmacist blogs? What is the impetus for such widespread vitriol?

Reading through the study, it seemsthat blogs like SBP, Anthony Cox’s Black Triangle, Matthew Robinson’s Prescribing Advice for GPs, and Jerry Fahrni’s eponymous blog, all of which offer great content and a positive face to pharmacy, appear to be be the outliers.

A Request

I’d like to thank all of you that follow the Science-Based Pharmacy blog.  I’d really appreciate if you could delurk in the comments (even with a pseudonym and fake email), and write a short note about yourself. Who are you? What do you do?  Do you have an interest in pharmacy practice? Or the products sold there? Say something – even if you have never commented at the blog before.

Reference

Clauson KA, Ekins J, & Goncz CE (2010). Use of blogs by pharmacists. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 67 (23), 2043-8 PMID: 21098377

17 thoughts on “Celebrating Two Years of SBP

  1. Happy Bloggiversary, Scott.

    Generally speaking, I ask a lot of questions. I’m one of “those people” at the doctor’s office. I just can’t help it. I simply cannot blindly follow recommendations without first understanding (at least, at a very basic level) why I am doing it. So I question, look at my options and then proceed — usually following the recommendations anyway.

    Having always wanted to believe that there were natural, safe alternatives out there, I tried homeopathy and other natural remedies. And I did so without questioning them. You made me realize that I need to question these things too … and when I did, I was like “What?! *That’s* what homeopathy is?!”

    So thanks for that. I’m not ready to dismiss all natural things outright, but I certainly take more time and put more thought into all things now.

    I’m also approaching my two year bloggiversary. This is something that I keep meaning to write about. I hope that when I do, you’ll go easy on me. :)

    Amanda

  2. Scott:

    Congratulations on the milestone! This is one of my very favourite blogs, so I’m very glad to see it continuing in good health.

    You already know who I am, but I’ll introduce myself for the sake of other readers, because who I am explains in part why I find your blog so valuable: My name is Chris MacDonald. I’m a philosophy professor. I write The Business Ethics Blog, so I’m keenly interested in issues of consumer protection, which is in a sense what your blog is all about. I also teach Critical Thinking (and am co-author of a textbook on the topic). So I appreciate seeing a professional with your training adopting a critical perspective and putting it to such good use.

    Again, hearty congratulations. As I’ve said before, this blog is a valuable public service.

    Best regards,
    Chris.

  3. [delurk engaged]

    Congratulations Scott!

    I have found SBP to be both an interesting read and a useful tool. In addition to being a pharmacist, I teach at a college of pharmacy in the US and have cited some of your posts and blog resources (e.g. Jenny McCarthy Body Count) when lecturing about topics ranging from literature evaluation to medical ethics to CAM (as a guest lecturer). I’ve found a lot of good value here and appreciate your efforts.

    Kevin

  4. Congratulations! Blogging is a lot of work, but yours is a valuable contribution to rational, science-based healthcare. So keep it up! :-)

    I’m a small animal veterinarian, author of The SkeptVet Blog, and occassional contirbuter to SBM as well.

  5. I used to be an anti-vax, homeopathy toting, naturopath supporting, alt med/New Age junkie. I’ve spent the last couple of years attempting to learn some good critical thinking skills and understand SBM so that I can make informed choices for my own health and ensure that the information I’m sharing with others is accurate.

    I appreciate your writing. Congrats on your anniversary.

    Oh, and I’m from Toronto. :)

  6. Congratulation!
    Keep up the good work. I regularly read your emailings and find them very informative. Can we also register to receive emails from Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)?
    Again thanks for being skeptics!
    VJ Basque, PHC.

  7. Just answering the roll-call!

    I’m a student (also in Toronto!) who follows SBM and SBP regularly. I’m always happy to forward a link or two to people who are on the homeopathy bandwagon, and both blogs have spawned a couple of really good conversations about truth-telling in the media, medical practice and skeptical thought.

    Thanks very much for choosing blogging over publishing in a medical journal. The open dialogue you generate is priceless.

  8. Blogs such as yours, and in the UK Ben Goldacres’ (www.badscience.net), David Colquhouns (both in teh UK )and sites such as HolfordWatch and Quackwatch) and the main SBM are welcome reading whilst sandwich munching!

    As a UK pharmacist now working in New Zealand and very much evidence based in his practice I’m amazed at the amount of “woo” there is out there in the world and amongst health care professionals. Easy to access and readable blogs such as yours are a benefit to us all.

  9. I am a constant reader, even if I don’t comment often.

    I am not a pharmacist but a consumer. I suppose one of my “hats” is a free-lance, common-person debunker of woo, especially relating to autism and learning disabilities.

  10. Autistic Lurker: Entrepreneur in computer programming and networking. Published 3rd author in auditory neuroscience (work done in 2007-2008, published 3 weeks ago) but nowadays, psychiatric shrink patient. My interest in pharmacy is about having more information on the prescriptions drugs I am using; I did 3 credit of university level psychopharmacology course.

    A.L.

  11. Thank you Scott for the excellent content both here and at SBM. The blog is one of the few that I check in with on a daily basis – with my morning Tim’s. I follow this and other skeptic/science blogs because I was interested in becoming a drug and alcohol counselor. I hold a degree in criminal justice and public policy and drug issues was one of my areas of interest. I decided to enter a specific program and found that science and evidence was poorly understood, ignored, and even outright rejected. The pharmacology course was taught by a social worker who contradicted the text and didn’t like this pointed out. So I take solace in having reliable resources and compatriots interested in holding themselves and others to a higher standard.

    More specifically I have an interest in pharmacy practice both because of my interest in drugs of abuse and because I just plain can’t stand woo and nonsense.

    Keep holding their feet to the fire – they can’t pretend they’re not burning forever.

  12. Thanks for blogging, it’s very much appreciated. I probably drop by far too often, but I don’t want to be late reading anything here.

    About me? I don’t work in pharmacy, though I work in drug regulation, so pretty much everything here is of interest to me. I agree with you on NHPs; while protection of the public by ensuring the safety of NHPs is valuable, evaluating “efficacy” using an alternate set of standards that are practically worthless is a disservice to the public.
    Fortunately, I don’t work with NHPs :)

    Looking forward to many more years of enlightening posts and discussions.

  13. Hi Scott, Congrats! I started reading your blog about 6 months ago, and was particularly fascinated by the discussions about vaccines, autism and the ardent anti-vaccine advocates out there. We used to work together at the Drug Programs Branch in Toronto, and I’m now working in retail in Michigan. I’m a vaccinating pharmacist who deals far too regularly with anti-vaccine consumers. I spend a lot of time trying to explain herd immunity and the importance of protecting others from us as well as protection of ourselves, and your blog has given me some ideas in dealing with this dilemma.
    From a fellow Canuck, keep up the good work, eh?!

  14. Hi, Scott, I am a portuguese pharmacist, working in Portugal, at a Pharmacy and i follow your blog because i feel as you about so many subjects. i´ve found very similarities between Canada´s practice and ours, and i trully don´t believe in Homeopathy (never have!). Though it is so dificult to show people that there is nothing in it :( hope you give me (all of us that follow you) many info about these and other subjects of real interest to all the pharmacist ariund the world…i hope i do the same!

  15. Hi Scott, congrats on the milestone and keep up the great work!

    I found your website via SBM. When H1N1 started up, I found so many people questioning the safety of the vaccine – and I was shocked how so many were well-educated! They were forwarding Mercola and whale-to sites to all their friends (I’d never heard of either, but thought the content was awful). A colleague of mine (we’re both pharmacists) posted a link on her Facebook to the SBM post about the safety of the vaccine, and I’ve been following SBM and SBP blogs ever since. It has also piqued my interest in pseudoscience, with homoepathy being my main “target” at work.

    I also used to work as a Drug Information pharmacist, so I know how many pharmacists out there just aren’t equipped with the critical thinking skills that are learned from such a position. (I didn’t graduate pharmacy school able to critically appraise medical literature like I am now!) Pharmacists need to improve in this area, so we need voices like yours to help. I work for corporate grocery-store pharmacy now, and can see the writing on the wall … the push for us to promote supplements and “wellness” is coming, and most pharmacists will just play along. Thankfully, my manager keeps that stuff to a minimum in our location.

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