Homeopathy in Pharmacies: Scrutiny in the UK

It looks terrible on pharmacists and pharmacy practice: Homeopathy, on pharmacy shelves.  In front of Members of Parliament, the  Professional Standards Director for Boots, a huge British pharmacy chain, made the following admission last week:

There is certainly a consumer demand for these products. I have no evidence to suggest they are efficacious. It is about consumer choice for us and a large number of our customers believe they are efficacious.

Ugh. Profits before ethical patient care. Foreshadowing for Canadian pharmacies?

In the United Kingdom, the parliamentary science and technology met last week to evaluate the strength of evidence that supports the MHRA’s decision (their version of Health Canada) to license homeopathic products for sale, and allow claims to be attached to these products without evidence that they work. Pointed questions were directed at Boots and their decision to sell homeopathy in pharmacies.

The hearing are well worth reading through.  And the media response has been scathing. “However they sugar it, you’re swallowing a delusion” says The Times:

Boots sees no reason to stop selling a line of products of no proven value when there are still consumers (gullible mugs) prepared to buy it.

Ben Goldacre both spoke at the hearings, and then wrote about it later, in an article entitled Homeopathy and the nocebo effect:

There were comedy highlights, as you might expect from any serious inquiry into an industry where sugar pills have healing powers conferred upon them by being shaken with one drop of the ingredient which has been diluted so extremely that it equates to one molecule of the substance in a sphere of water whose diameter is roughly the distance from the Earth to the sun.

The man from Boots said he had no evidence that homeopathy pills worked, but he sold them because people wanted to buy them. The man from the pill manufacturers’ association said negative trials about homeopathy were often small, with an average of 65 people, and “all statisticians” agreed you need 500 people for a proper trial. Not only is it untrue that you necessarily need this many people ; he then cited, in his favour, a positive homeopathy trial with just 25 patients in it.

The Telegraph also weighed in,  with an article entitled: Boots: We sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, not because they work.

With homeopathy creeping into many Canadian pharmacies, as well as pharmacy continuing education programs, that headline may yet appear in Canada. Stay tuned.

The Physics of Homeopathy Explained: Part Two

How does homeopathy work?  It uses the dilithium matrix to stabilize the warp pressure enough to maintain the inertia necessary to gather deuterium particles with the brassard collectors. Oh wait, that’s Star Trek.








But via the hilarious site Homeopathy World Community comes this gem, which isn’t much different. Sit back and enjoy.

Homeopaths are still struggling to explain how water can have medicinal effects.  Rather than admitting that these treatments are profoundly unscientific, and don’t actually work, they string together meaningless technobabble to make homeopathy sound scientific. But it’s a belief system – nothing more.  And these tortured explanations are increasingly resembling self-parody.



Your Urine is Not a Window to Your Body: pH Balancing – A Failed Hypothesis

pHOne of my first encounters with “alternative” health was the “pH balance” idea. A customer approached me at the pharmacy counter and asked for “pH test strips.” I asked him about kidney stones, diabetes – the usual reasons you test your urine. He told me he was healthy, and he was just monitoring his body’s “acid balance” and that he kept his body “alkali” to be healthy.  “You can’t change your body’s pH, sir – if your pH changes, you’ll die,” I explained, in my most reassuring pharmacist voice. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped at me, “I adjust my pH all the time.” I handed over the urine testing strips, rang it into the cash register, and wondered, what is this guy talking about? Where did he get the idea he could manipulate his body’s acidity? Continue reading

Should We Maintain an Open Mind about Homeopathy?


It is considered unethical for modern medical practitioners to sink to this kind of deception that denies the patient his or her autonomy. Secondly, by opening the door to irrational medicine alongside evidence-based medicine, we are poisoning the minds of the public. Finally, if we don’t put a brake on the increasing self-confidence of the homeopathic establishment, they will cease to limit their attention to self-limiting or nonspecific maladies.

More, from Michael Baum and Edzard Ernst, writing in this month’s American Journal of Medicine, here.