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. Continue reading

On Mentors and Memes

As we meander through life, there are inflection points – decisions and events that dramatically affect our future. It may take years to recognize them.  In 1993, I found out I’d been selected for a hospital pharmacy residency at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. I didn’t realize it until years later, but this was one of those events. In London, I had the privilege to spend a year learning from Dr. Charles (Charlie) Bayliff, the residency coordinator. I’ve been reflecting on Charlie’s impact on my life over the past few days. On Sunday evening, Charlie passed away after a battle with cancer.  I’m proud to call Charlie a mentor and a huge influence on my career, and philosophy towards pharmacy practice. Continue reading

Unapproved Natural Health Products Banned from Ontario Pharmacies

In a stunning move, the Ontario College of Pharmacists has prohibited Ontario pharmacies from selling health products that are not approved for safety and efficacy by Health Canada. This directive, which takes effect immediately, banishes some of the most questionable “alternative” health products from pharmacy shelves. This message was sent to all pharmacies and pharmacists on January 20, 2010: Continue reading

Top Science-Based Pharmacy Events of the Decade

There have been a few “best of the decade” lists circulating, with both KevinMD and Medpage Today giving their perspective on the biggest medical events of the past ten years. Here’s my own list of what I think influenced or impacted the drive to make pharmacy a more science-based profession. This is a fairly Canadian-centric list: I apologize to all of all SBP’s international readers. I invite your critique and suggestions on anything I missed, or any relevant events/trends in your pharmacy practice. These items are in no particular order. Continue reading

The Physics of Homeopathy – Finally Explained!

This has to be seen to be believed. It’s the physics of homeopathy – as explained by a an optometrist who dabbles in homeopathy.  Watch it – but I take no responsibility for the brain cells that will rupture upon viewing.

We discovered a few days ago that even the light reflecting off Saturn can made into a remedy.  When groups lilke naturopaths claim that homeopathy is science, what does this say about their ability to provide reality-based health care? And why do  pharmacists continue to enable this antiquated practice by selling homeopathic products in pharmacies?

Go read the Science-Based Medicine post for a dissection of the “science” in this presentation.

Autism Quackfest Hits the Media

It was bound to happen. And I’m glad to have done my part. I’ve been blogging since August about the questionable judgment of the SickKids Foundation for their support of rank pseudoscience at the upcoming AutismOne Conference, Changing the Course of Autism.

It’s now a national story in Canada. Tom Blackmore, of the National Post, weighs in today: Controversial autism conference got funds from Sick Kids

A branch of Toronto’s renowned Hospital for Sick Children is being criticized for funding an autism conference whose organizers champion the discredited belief that childhood immunization causes the neurological disorder.

The event – to start on Saturday at the University of Toronto medical sciences building – also includes presentations that some experts are calling unproven science, promoting such alternative treatments for autism as homeopathy and hyperbaric oxygen chambers.

Organized by the American group AutismOne and Austism Canada, the meeting has received $5,000 in funding from SickKids Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising wing.

Blogs designed to expose practitioners of dubious science have railed against the event for the past two months, questioning why a respected health-care institution would offer its support to a group that considers vaccination of children a health risk.

“The name of Sick Kids is worth more to them than the money: it is a stamp of legitimacy”

“Sick Kids hospital has some of the world’s most renowned autism researchers. I suspect most of them would not be thrilled by the fact that SickKids Foundation is supporting this conference.”

The full story is here.

As I blogged about this last week over at the Skeptic North blog, with content this dubious,  you’d expect science-based organizations to stay far, far away. Sadly, the SickKids Foundation, with their “neutral stance” towards pseudoscience, is a confirmed sponsor. And now they’re facing well-deserved scrutiny.

The Post also has a nice piece on the role that bloggers played: Blogs raise the alarm on autism conference. Skeptic North, Respectful Insolence, and Sandwalk are all mentioned. Science-Based Pharmacy isn’t mentioned…but that’s OK. I’m happy to see some well-deserved publicity for Skeptic North and its team of writers.  (The Post says I run the Skeptic North blog – that’s incorrect. To be clear, Steve Thoms is Skeptic North’s editor).

I’m pleased to see the media questioning the propagation and sponsorship of pseudoscience. As I blogged about earlier this week, the antivaccination rhetoric is peaking, with the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine. Why the SickKids Foundation would support anti-vaccination organizations, that will only lead to more sick kids, continues to escape me.

What’s Happening to Pharmacy Continuing Education at the University of Toronto?


A few weeks ago I blogged about an upcoming “Natural Health Products” symposium that’s being held at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.  The agenda raises a number of skeptical red flags, including topics like the efficacy of herbals for H1N1,and natural health products for menopausal symptoms (which I’ve called the power of placebo). The last presentation is the most questionable, with topics like “adrenal fatigue” as a consequence of chronic pain (adrenal fatigue is not an accepted medical condition). The biggest giveaway that this program may not be science-based is the mention of homeopathy as a “treatment option” for chronic pain. Continue reading

Why is the SickKids Foundation Supporting Antivaccinationists?

In yesterday’s post, I pointed out that the notorious antivaccination group AutismOne is sponsoring a conference this October at the University of Toronto. On the agenda, dubious and implausible treatments like homeopathy and various “biochemical” treatments.

What is even more concerning is that the conference is financially supported by the SickKids Foundation, the charitable foundation of the Hospital for Sick Children, Canada’s largest children’s hospital – one of the finest in the world.

Well today I (and many of you) wrote to SickKids to register our concern about the Foundation’s support of an organization that propagates fiction about the supposed links between vaccines and autism (there isn’t one) and tout pseudoscientific, non-science-based treatments. AutismOne, as my pharmacist colleague pointed out in yesterday’s post, has probably done more than any other group to hurt the autism cause, and is jeopardizing the lives of Canadian children through an unfounded, manufactured controversy about the safety of vaccines. Continue reading

The University of Toronto Embraces Autism Quackery

U of T

Well, it seems that quackademic medicine is being embraced by my alma mater, the University of Toronto. Yesterday someone tipped me off to a program hosted by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and sponsored by the SickKids Foundation of the Hospital for Sick Children.

The program is the AutismOne/Autism Canada Conference, “Changing the Course of Autism In Canada” [PDF], October 31/November 1, 2009.  As detailed by blogger Orac at the Respectful Insolence Blog: Continue reading

Keep Libel Laws Out of Science: The Simon Singh Affair

free debate

What’s the icon above about? You may have noticed it on the Science-Based Pharmacy website for the past several weeks. Simon Singh is a science writer who wrote about the British Chiropractic Association, and their stated claim that chiropractors can treat childhood conditions, like colic.  His comment, published in the British newspaper The Guardian, was as follows:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

The BCA was offered the opportunity to respond in writing in the Guardian. Instead of providing evidence to support their claim, the British Chiropractic Association decided to sue Simon Singh for libel. English libel laws are probably the most difficult for bloggers, authors, skeptics or anyone that critically appraises evidence, as the burden of proof lies on the defendant, not the group alleging libel. Continue reading