Survey finds one-third of Australian pharmacists are recommending unproven therapies

From The Guardian:

Nearly one third of pharmacists are recommending complementary and alternative medicines with little-to-no evidence for their efficacy, including useless homeopathic products and potentially harmful herbal products.

The finding comes from a Choice survey of 240 pharmacies including Priceline, Chemist Warehouse and Terry White. Mystery shoppers were sent in to speak to a pharmacist at the prescription dispensing counter and ask for advice about feeling stressed.

Three per cent of the pharmacists recommended homeopathic products, despite a comprehensive review of all existing studies on homeopathy finding that there is no evidence they work in treating any condition.

Twenty-six percent recommended Bach flower remedies to shoppers, homeopathic solutions of alcohol and water containing diluted flower essences. The solution was invened by a British homeopath, Edward Bach, who claimed to have a psychic connection to plants. A comprehensive review of all existing studies on Bach flower solutions found no difference between the remedies and placebos.

The Choice survey also found products containing a B group vitamin complex were recommended by pharmacists for stress in 46% of cases. Other frequently recommended products were St John’s wort and valerian. There is no good evidence that these products reduce stress.

A more detailed summary, from CHOICE, is here.


Not an alternative to anything

Homeopathic vaccines

Health Canada approves homeopathic “nosodes” as “safe and effective” despite the fact that homeopathy is an elaborate placebo system of sugar pills based on prescientific ideas of disease. Homeopaths and naturopaths actively promote nosodes as alternatives to vaccines, despite the fact that homeopathic remedies are inert with zero ability to protect against infectious disease.

Due to lobbying by groups like Bad Science Watch, Health Canada has reluctantly agreed to label nosodes (which it approves for sale) with the caution “This product is not intended to be an alternative to vaccination”.  Is this adequate? Some are asking why nosodes are even permitted for sale at all: Continue reading

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: Continue reading

A Strong Message to Pharmacists about IgG Food Sensitivity Testing

From the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology:

The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) is very concerned about the increased marketing of food-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) testing towards the general public over the past few years, supposedly as a simple means by which to identify “food sensitivity”, food intolerance or food allergies. In the past, this unvalidated form of testing was usually offered by alternative or complementary health providers, but has now become more widely available with direct-to-consumer marketing through a nationwide chain of pharmacies. Continue reading

Third year anniversary!

I recently asked a colleague for search advice on a topic I was researching. When I told her it was for a blog post, she was intrigued. “How much do you get paid to blog?” she asked. When I told her that blogging didn’t provide any revenue, she was dumfounded. “Even writing for [big pharmacy trade magazine] will pay you a few hundred dollars per article! Why would you write something, and then just give it away?” I told her I wasn’t interested in writing 5000 words on someone else’s topic, waiting months to see it in print, and then wondering if anyone even read it. “Blogging provides immediate gratification,” I replied, “That model seems hopelessly outdated. If there’s a therapeutic controversy, or pharmacy practice issue, I want to discuss it now – not in six months, or a year.” And blogging provides a level of feedback that’s unheralded compared to traditional publication models. Sure, you may be called a Nazi, a Communist, or a Big Pharma Shill, but that comes with the territory when you criticize quackery and call out pseudoscience. Continue reading