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.
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.
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.
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