Like many Canadians who saw last week’s news article “Health Canada licensing of natural remedies ‘a joke,’ doctor says” in the lead-up to Friday’s Marketplace episode on CBC, I was very interested in learning the story behind it. Unlike many Canadians, I wasn’t at all shocked or surprised by the outcome. This blog (and others) have been critical for years about the lack of oversight where the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) is concerned. (The NHPD recently changed its name to the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate. (NNHPD)) See “Do the Natural Health Products Regulations Benefit Canadians?”, “Health Canada Gets Out a Big Rubber Stamp” & “Safe and Effective? A Consumer’s Guide to Natural Health Products” for some background. For those who haven’t had a chance to view the episode, it can be viewed here: Continue reading
As discussed in one of my previous posts, the promotion of quackery is so ubiquitous in my town it’s become white noise for me. I mostly tune it out unless I’m personally asked my opinion. Often this promotion comes in the weekly newspaper, in the advertising-disguised-as-advice page “Ask the Expert.” Occasionally there are columns by financial advisors and home improvement experts, but by far the majority of “expert advice” comes from chiropractors, naturopaths, Chinese Medicine practitioners, and holistic nutritionists. One regular advertiser is a local who calls herself a “Divine Healer”. She has some initials after her name, none of which I can trace back to any actual licenced health profession, degree or diploma. Her services include reflexology, mediumship, craniosacral therapy, aromatherapy and card-reading. She also offers a special massage called “vibrational raindrop technique” which apparently involves the use of essential oils and tuning forks or singing bowls. This actually sounds like it might be kind of relaxing and entertaining. Something I would personally never pay the money for, but harmless, right? Earlier this year, however, a local public health nurse who I consider a kindred spirit based on our views of alternative medicine contacted me about the weekly claim. Continue reading
Via Pharmadaddy, an occasional contributor to SBP, comes a detailed analysis of the MLM-marketed protein supplement called Shakeology. His wife is buying it, so he decided to check out the ingredients:
If you have not come across Shakeology, it is a powdered protein supplement, replete with myriad “superfoods” (aside: there is no such thing as a superfood. Get over it.) You make a smoothie from it, either straight up or mixed with other foods, and use it as a meal replacement. Aside from the fact that processed desiccated “food” is not even close to the same thing as the real deal, taste is always of utmost concern to me. And I find it repulsive. But others, including her, find it delicious.
Today’s post is a guest contribution from a Canadian pharmacist who is writing under the pseudonym Sara Russell:
Every morning I open up Facebook and expect to see the usual sharing of my friends’ latest adventures in pseudoscience, but it wasn’t until this morning that I felt compelled to write about something. A friend had posted this video asking for feedback. Continue reading
In my last post, I introduced myself as a pharmacist in a small-ish town, eager to combat the growing acceptance of pseudoscience into the mainstream. I love living where I live for a multitude of reasons. But I’ve found it rather challenging to wave the flag of skepticism. I have no problem displaying my preference for science-based medicine at my workplace, but outside of work a rather large road-block has emerged – social isolation. While I have found a few kindred spirits in a public health nurse and a high school science teacher, they, too, remain relatively quiet about their skepticism. I decided a few months ago to push the boundaries, and learned the hard way why others have been forced to keep quiet. Continue reading
As a community pharmacist, I’m frequently asked about over-the-counter (OTC) and natural health products (NHPs) for the treatment of different chronic conditions. This consultation can be complicated by a reluctance for consumers to seek a physician’s advice (and a diagnosis) before beginning therapy. As a partner in the health care system it’s important to give both credible, science-based advice, while ensuring a patient’s primary care physician is aware of the consultation and recommendations.
Arthritis pain is a common complaint, and I’m regularly asked about glucosamine, and sometimes chondroitin (which it is often co-packaged with). As is true for most natural products, glucosamine’s popularity is not related to persuasive clinical evidence. Rather it seems to be secondary to perceptions of efficacy, driven by personal experience, anecdotes and persuasive marketing. However, unlike many other supplements, glucosamine has been extensively studied in clinical trials, and is at least plausible as a pain reliever for conditions affecting joint articulations, such as osteoarthritis (OA). The evidence, unfortunately, is largely contradictory, and on balance, disappointing. Continue reading