Dispensing in 140 character increments

Some of the people I follow on twitter

It’s nice to be acknowledged for your work, even if it’s just for creating 140 character messages. James Fell who writes for Chatelaine magazine and is also active on Twitter, recently published a list at Chatelaine: The Ten Best Health Experts to Follow on Twitter. And guess who made the list?

8. Scott Gavura Toronto-based pharmacist who advocates for science-based healthcare. A skeptic and critic of pseudo-science.

I’ve been using Twitter for a few years now and find it’s a great tool for learning, educating, and connecting with people that share similar interests. If you like the blog and wish I’d update it more frequently, follow me on Twitter where you’ll see a lot more relevant content that I just don’t have time to blog. I’ve got a fair number of followers and follow about 500 people – a mix of scientists, science writers, journalists, health professionals, and more. I’m not surprised by some of the other “best health experts” on James’ list – I already follow Julia Belluz, André Picard , Yoni Freedhoff and Timothy Caulfield, and you should too.  If you’re not already using Twitter, check it out. What happens on Twitter right now is today’s newscast and tomorrow’s newspaper.

Science-based health advocacy and the end of “Registered Holistic Allergists” in Canada

Photo of the GSR-120

Caution! The GSR-120 is an uproven allergy treatment

As the trend of fake food allergies and fake food intolerances has begun to permeate pharmacy practice, I’ve become much more attuned to allergy pseudoscience. As I have pointed out before, there are scientific ways to diagnose and treat allergies, and then there are the methods used by “alternative” health practitioners, which are neither accurate nor effective. It’s not only naturopaths – there is a wide field of different practices, all claiming the ability to identify and treat allergies. These methods lack scientific substantiation – some prefer to redefine the word allergy:

A Holistic Allergist uses a new definition of allergy: “A bioenergetic counteraction to a given substance resulting in abnormality”.

It’s strategy first documented in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass:

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” Continue reading

Point of Inquiry: Dispensing Skepticism

For those interested, I recently spoke with Karen Stollznow for the Point of Inquiry podcast.  What is Point of Inquiry?

Point of Inquiry is the premier podcast of the Center for Inquiry, drawing on CFI’s relationship with the leading minds of the day including Nobel Prize-winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers, and renowned entertainers. Each episode combines incisive interviews, features and commentary focusing on CFI’s issues: religion, human values and the borderlands of science.

This discussion focused on the role of the pharmacist and the need for science-based pharmacy practice. We touched on a lot of issues including the changing role of the pharmacist, the ethical responsibilities of pharmacists when it comes to products like homeopathy, what compounding pharmacies do, what generic drugs are, what an expiry date means, what pharmacists think about vitamins and other supplements, and more. You can listen to the podcast here.

Skeptics in the Pub – The References

Crowd shot at SiTP, courtesy Dave Bailey/ASR

Thank you to everyone that attended my talk yesterday at Skeptics In the Pub on the topic of Over-The-Counter drugs. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak, and all the discussion it generated.  As promised, here’s a list of references and further readings. Some are written by myself, some by my colleagues at Science-Based Medicine or other blogs. Some are direct link to the source material. Continue reading

Help Save Cathy

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common rapidly-progressing leukemia in adults. In AML, the bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. The consequence is anemia, bleeding risks, and an inability to fight infections. Chemotherapy is the usual initial approach. When it cannot bring a remission, the best treatment option may be a stem cell transplant. In order to successfully donate stem cells, there must be a compatible match of cell antigens between the donor and the recipient. Family members may or may not be good recipients – successful donors can be be completely unrelated. Ethnic similarities may mean better matches, too.

A pharmacist colleague of mine in Toronto has AML – and I’m asking for your help. Catherine Anagnostopoulos, a 44 year old mother of three,  is in urgent need of stem cell transplant. To date, no successful donor has been identified. Cathy is of Greek origin, but anyone is encouraged to register in their national stem cell and bone marrow registry – stem cells cross borders all the time.

After answering a short health questionnaire, you will be sent a kit by mail. Rub a swab on the inside of your cheek, drop it in the mail, and you’re registered. If you are a match for any needy recipient, you’ll be contacted. The actual transplant procedure, in many cases, is similar to donating blood. In Canada, visit the One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network. In the USA, visit Be The Match. (Please post any other known registries in the comments).

If you’re in Toronto, there are three community swabbing events scheduled in the next few weeks:

  • Wednesday, April 13th 2011, 2:00pm to 8:00pm, Leaside Blood Donor Clinic and Swabbing Event, Northlea Elementary & Middle School, 305 Rumsey Rd, Toronto, Ontario, (North Gymnasium)
  • Wednesday, April 20th 2011, 3:00pm to 7:00pm, Presteign Heights Elementary School, 2570 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto, Ontario M4B 1M3
  • Sunday, May 1st 2011, 12:00 pm to 6:00pm, St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church, 1385 Warden Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, (Youth Centre Gymnasium)

For more information on Cathy, see Help Save Cathy. Please help Cathy via Facebook, and Twitter. And please pass the message on. Cathy and many other people need the gift of life that you alone may be able to give.

Conventional advice, but wrong: A request

I’m preparing a presentation on the evidence-based use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The audience will be pharmacists. Given the breadth of the topic, I’m going to focus on OTC treatment myths – and I’d like your input.

What are some myths about OTC medications that refuse to die, despite evidence to the contrary? What conditions, or classes of drugs, would most benefit from some scientific scrutiny? And when it comes to managing self-limiting conditions, what common treatment advice is in greatest need of an evidence check?

Please leave your suggestions in the comments, or pass them on to sciencebasedpharmacy at gmail dot com.