A Pharmacy That Won’t Sell Pseudoscience

“I just noticed CVS has started stocking homeopathic pills on the same shelves with–and labeled similarly to–their actual medicine. Telling someone who trusts you that you’re giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying–it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong.”

I’ve been calling on pharmacies to stop selling homeopathy since my very first post, almost (gulp) four years ago. Despite looking like medication, homeopathy is an “alternative” medicine system invented in the 1800′s which rejects established facts about biochemistry, physics, and pharmacology. If homeopathy works, then the rest of medicine we rely on could not work. To be perfectly clear, there is no serious scientific debate about homeopathy. It is inert. Yet pharmacies sell it side-by-side with other medicine, and are routinely ridiculed for it.

Finally, I’ve found one pharmacy in the world that publicly states that it won’t sell homeopathy. Farmacia Rialto in Madrid, Spain. Here’s their message to patients:


This quality of service prevents us from recommending the therapeutical use of pseudomedicines like homeopathy, flowers of Bach, oligotherapy and all those which have not proven scientifically their efficacy regarding the treatment, prevention and diagnosis of diseases.

About these therapies and as medicine specialists, we would like to explain you that:

  • Homeopathy is not a therapy with scientific studies endorsing the results in the treatment and prevention of diseases in adults, kids or animals.
  • The content of the homeopathic remedies consists almost completely of water and sugar, with no active component.
  • If you have any important disease or any disease you are trying to cure, you will not get any improvement with these treatments.  Ask a doctor practicing scientifical medicine.
  • Almost no homeopathic remedy has an official sanitary license that permits its trade as any other medicament has.  Therefore, the sale of most homeopathic remedies is illegal.

Because of these and many other reasons, Farmacia Rialto does not recommend you to use this kind of false therapies.

We can give you more detailed information for you to learn more and to solve your doubts about these therapies.

You can read more about it in the following links:

I’ve argued before it’s unethical for pharmacies to sell homeopathy. Yet pharmacy regulators don’t seem to understand the issue. I’m not aware of a single regulator that’s made a statement about selling it.  So it’s heartening to see some pharmacists put patients before profit.

Kudos to the pharmacists and staff of Farmacia Rialto.

Know any other pharmacies with a policy like this? Let me know in the comments.

(H/T Avant Garde blog)


16 thoughts on “A Pharmacy That Won’t Sell Pseudoscience

  1. This should be the policy of all pharmacists. Shops that are called pharmacies shouldn’t sell mock medicines that could, in some circumstances, be harmful.

    Some years ago, pharmacies in Ontario stopped selling cigarettes for this reason. (I wish they’d stop selling lottery tickets as well! It’s pathetic to see the poor gambling addicts lining up to get their fixes. The pharmacy does nothing even when the person obviously can’t afford it.)

    Pharmacies have a great gift of a monopoly in the sale of prescription medications. They are often the most profitable business in a small town. They should be more careful about the abuse of that public trust.

  2. I worked as a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist from 1987 to 1998. Dropping in on Shoppers from time to time, I’m dismayed by all the homeopathic products that are now sold in most OTC categories, placed side-by-side with the pharmaceuticals.

    This practice puts Shoppers pharmacists into an ethical dilemma when they try and recommend OTCs. Do they jeopardize their jobs if they explain to customers that homeopathy violates the basic physical laws of the universe? If I still worked there, I would be in such hot water. Customers would say, “So this hay fever remedy is natural?” and I’d be replying, “Yes, and so are your continued allergy symptoms.”

  3. What a dreamy place! I sure wish I worked there instead of a pharmacy that has the largest selection of homeopathic “remedies” in town. My boss (a pharmacist who should know better) frequently tells me to push homeopathy and that “You don’t have to believe in it to sell it.” Silly me, I always thought honesty was a positive attribute in employees!

  4. How daring to raise the matter of ‘ethics’! If any pharmacist does not believe in the safety and efficacy of homeopathic medicaments surely there is a professional obligation to discontinue their sale. But, they all do it. And, very few pharmacists are knowledgeable or in any way qualified to advise their customers about homeopathics. But, they all do it.

    Mutatis mutandis, natural health retailers gleefully flog remedies to ‘lower your cholesterol’ though most of them believe that Ancel Keys faked his research and the whole theory is bunk. No ethics there either.

    I don’t agree with you about homeopathy but it’s refreshing to see the challenge of ethics be put right upfront.

    • “…very few pharmacists are knowledgeable or in any way qualified to advise their customers about homeopathics.”

      Pharmacists certainly ARE knowledgeable and qualified to advise patients on homeopathy. We have extensive training in basic and advanced sciences and it is this training that informs us that homeopathy is nothing more that sugar pills, that water doesn’t retain memory, and high quality clinical studies show homeopathy to be inneffective.

      • A study done in 2003 suggest that Zincum Glucinicum, a homeopathic, shortens duration and reduces symptom severity of the common cold in healthy adults, when started within 24-48 h of the onset of illness.

        Citation: Effect of zincum gluconicum nasal gel on the duration and symptom severity of the common cold in otherwise healthy adults.Mossad SB.QJM. 2003Jan;96(1):35-43. Department of Infectious Diseases, S-32, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.

        Scott you remind me of the catholic hierarchy, suppressing the advancement of science in the name of old fashion western medicine.

        If you’d like I an post more research on homeopathic remedies?

        I will be making it a prerogative to follow your future post and make sure your actually researching your claims. As of right now it seems like your writing from the top of your head with very little thought.


      • The study used zinc nasal gel which was 33 mmol/l of zincum gluconicum. That’s Zicam, which was recalled because it caused temporary or permanent loss of smell in hundreds of people. The active ingredient is present is measurable quantities, not homeopathic quantities (that is, nonexistent, anything more dilute that 12C). The manufacturer was simply calling the product “homeopathic” to avoid FDA safety and efficacy standards. So this example you cite fails to establish the efficacy of homeopathy, and in fact serves as a good example of why regulations that allow a lowered bar for safety and efficacy for supplements and homeopathic “remedies” makes no sense from a consumer protection perspective. Fundamentally they give a veneer of legitimacy to products that cannot meet appropriate standards of safety and efficacy.

      • Saying: “Over 100,000 people died last year from their prescribed medications compared to ZERO homeopathic remedy fatalities.” is a completely dishonest comparison!

        Homeopathy (because it is not medicine) may not kill anyone from side-effects, overdose, mistakes, etc. etc. but doing nothing, or faith healing, should be compared to homeopathy. Perhaps for treating things like diseases of the rich and foolish. If you are comforted by homeopathic “remedies” you are ready to have your money taken by charlatans, I am sorry to say.

        New medicines are compared to existing medicines, or pretend medicines (placebos) during testing. If they can’t be shown to be more effective they are not meant to be approved. That is not to say that medicines are perfectly safe, because they can be dangerous in the wrong hands or used incorrectly. And yes, medicines can be harmful even when taken as prescribed. It is a fact you have to consider when accepting a prescription or even taking an over-the-counter drug – is my illness/condition worth treating and what is the best advice? Should I do nothing? There is a tendency for some problems to go away, but sometimes you need to act.

      • Touché Scott! After breaking down the dosage per spray one would be dosing approximately 1.98mg zincum gluconicum which is obviously far above homeopathic dilutions. Although it caused a glaring negative reaction, the results of zincum gluconicum is still fascinating.

        There are other homeopathic studies that have been performed with promising results. One with solid methodology was the effects of Arnica Monatana on bruising:

        Arnica Montana
        Patients taking perioperative homeopathic A montana exhibited less ecchymosis, and that difference was statistically significant.
        Effect of Homeopathic Arnica montana on Bruising in Face-liftsResults of a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-ControlledBrook M. Seeley, MD; Andrew B. Denton, MD; Min S. Ahn, MD; Corey S. Maas, MD
        Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2006;8(1):54-59. doi:10.1001/archfaci.8.1.54.

        Another remedy, Oscillococcinum also has some interesting findings but with less stringent qualities.
        Homeopathic Oscillococcinum(®) for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like illness.
        Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Dec 12;12:CD001957. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001957.pub5.

        The point I’m trying to make is that science is not yet at an “ALL KNOWING” point and that we are still discovering new testing methods and techniques. This advancement will further our understanding on how substances effect the body. Until we reach this omnipotent point in science it is important to make sure we toughly seek out knowledge to further advance ourselves. By throwing away homeopathy due to its lack of evidence before fully evaluating it, we could miss out on something critical that may or may not help countless people.

        Case in point:
        In “Magnesium: The cure to all disease?” that you “published” you patronizingly said, “Afraid of macular degeneration? Take lutein,” like there wasn’t any validity to taking lutein for preventive eye health reasons. Just last year State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology though technological advancement in testing made an interesting observation. The data implied that sufficient intake of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk for senile cataract via protecting the lens from oxidative damage.


      • You said:
        “a good example of why regulations that allow a lowered bar for safety and efficacy for supplements and homeopathic “remedies” makes no sense from a consumer protection perspective.”

        Over 100,000 people died last year from their prescribed medications compared to ZERO homeopathic remedy fatalities.


      • Citation: (Drug-Induced fatalities , 2009) “In 2009, a total of 39,147 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States (Tables 10, 12, and 13). This category includes deaths from poisoning and medical conditions caused by dependent and nondependent use of legal or illegal drugs, and also includes poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use, as well as newborn deaths due to the mother’s drug use. (For a list of drug-induced causes, see ‘‘Technical Notes.’’ See also the discussion of poisoning mortality that uses the more
        definition of poisoning as an injury in thesection titled ‘‘Injury mortality by mechanism and intent’’.)
        Source: Kenneth D. Kochanek, M.A.; Jiaquan Xu, M.D.; Sherry L. Murphy, B.S.; Arialdi M. Minino, M.P.H.; and Hsiang-Ching Kung, Ph.D., “Deaths: Final Data for 2009,” Division of Vital Statistics (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control), Vol. 60, Number 3, Dec. 29, 2011, p. 11.2

        2009, deaths: 63,846; serious: 373,535
        (Deaths and Serious Patient Outcomes from FDA-Approved Drugs) “These data describe the outcome of the patient as defined in U.S. reporting regulations (21 CFR 310.305, 314.80, 314.98, 600.80) and Forms FDA 3500 and 3500A (the MedWatch
        means that one or more of the following outcomes were documented in the report: death, hospitalization, life-threatening, disability, congenital anomaly and/or other serious outcome. Documenting one or more of these outcomes in a report does not necessarily mean that the suspect product(s) named in the report was the cause of these outcomes.” Source: “AERS Patient Outcomes by Year,” Food and Drug Administration (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 31, 2010).

  5. As someone who is currently studying Pharmacology, I completely agree with this sentiment about not stocking Homeopathy products. In fact, we are taught never to recommend them to customers, and when they are asked about, to first tell them that they have NO efficacy, and gently prompt them to other remedies that are a lot more effective (and usually less expensive. Apparently water drops on a tablet is expensive to manufacture)

    Also, to this David commenter… No one died from homeopathic products? Is that because there is literally no active ingredients in many of the products?

    As for Zicam, the zinc was not prepared in a homeopathic way… only the other ingredients were. Zinc is KNOWN to release cold and flu symptoms.

  6. I am happy to have found this blog.

    I am very pleased to inform you that I own and run Saxbys Pharmacy in Taree, Australia, and I refuse to stock any form of homeopathic product.

    Further, I refuse to recommend vitamins, herbs or supplements of any kind which do not have rigorous backing by evidence. And that means there is very little to recommend.

    I do not stock products whose claims are outright laughable (e.g. diet fatburners), or have inherent dangers (e.g. ear candles).

    Unfortunately, here in Australia, our so-called regulators are fast asleep at the wheel, so health fraud is a booming business. There appear to be no legal or financial penalties for misleading the public about useless products, so I say: Scammers from around the world, set up here and get rich!!!

    • You are a good person! Getting rich isn’t the most important thing in the world – the respect of your community, whether in your home town or on the web must count for something!

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