When we rounded-up your views on homeopathy and pharmacists we didn’t expect another 800 comments to roll in! That, and the fact it’s World Homeopathic Awareness Week, has re-fuelled our homeopathic fire…
In a first for Which? Conversation, this week’s ‘Your view’ is based on a previous round-up. If you’ve had enough of the word ‘homeopathy’ then bear with us for another week because it’s clearly a popular topic.
That said, previous discussions haven’t been problem-free. Many contributors have threatened to leave the debate and warnings have been issued.
So it is with a little trepidation that we broach the subject one more time with a short summary of your main points and themes…
The role of pharmacists
Our first Convo came out of our snapshot investigation which found that 13 out of 20 pharmacists failed to explain that there’s no clinical evidence that homeopathy works. Amy, a retired community pharmacist, found this surprising.
‘I have never advocated the use of homeopathic medicine and can see no scientific reason as to why it should have any place in modern medicine. If it does work it is probably due to the placebo effect or blind faith!’
‘Should pharmacists offer homeopathic solutions to medical problems? Probably not, unless you also think that it would be reasonable for them to ask you to bring in eye of newt and toe of frog and they’d make up a potion for you. People expect pharmacists to offer something that, in their professional opinion, will treat the illness presented.’
But SAHC says we should apply the same theory across all medicine:
‘If a pharmacist chooses to warn a customer against the use of homeopathy, that is up to him or her. I would vote that it should be up to a pharmacist’s personal conscience and belief. Conversely, should a pharmacist be required to warn his customers of the adverse side effects of mainstream drugs? Oh, that might not be a good idea… it would take up too much time, would it not?’
How is homeopathy being sold?
Robin spoke to his local Boots’ pharmacist about our investigation:
‘He was very aware of the Which? survey. He said Boots had sent out information and training reminders to them as a result. I take some comfort from this, and credit is due to Boots for taking some prompt action. Perhaps if everyone reading this also politely asked their local pharmacist if they were aware of the survey results and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society policy it might help even further.’
But Wavechange still feels let down by the way that homeopathic labelling works:
‘I have been looking at the Boots website and am disappointed to see that it lists various homeopathic properties. There are some guarded statements, but to have words such as “pain relief” shown without qualification on the front of the packet is little short of disgraceful.’
Where does homeopathy stand with science?
The issue of science has been discussed at length in both previous Conversations, and Wavechange sums up many people’s views here:
‘It is not up to us to disprove homeopathy but for you and your fellow believers to get together and prove that it works to command respect from the scientific community.’
Dr Lionel Milgrom responds:
‘Thank you: with this, I think you have at last verbalised the gigantic hubris under which many on this site labour. And that is proving or disproving how and whether homeopathy works, and gaining the respect of the scientific community have very little to do with patients’ democratic right of access to safe, cost-effective healthcare. Quite clearly many want homeopathy. The reason the pseudo-sceptic movement is so rife in the UK is because patients can still have homeopathy on the NHS if they choose to.’
ChrisP says homeopathy should not be seen as an alternative medicine:
‘The science plainly shows it can be as potent as a placebo, not that it actively heals. I doubt any doctor or pharmacist would treat an illness as significant as type 1 diabetes with homeopathy alone, whereas many members of the public would genuinely hope their chronic stress, indigestion or pain can be solved by homeopathy as it will be safe, not make them experience side effects nor directly kill them, which wrongly (or in some cases rightly) they may believe is always possible of traditional medicine.’
But Robin worries that homeopathy will still be used in the wrong way:
‘The only fly in this non-ointment is some homeopaths are claiming it can treat serious conditions such as cancer, aids, malaria etc. It is clear some are promoting the view that homeopathy is not just a placebo, as an adjunct to medical care, but a primary treatment. Others claim homeopathic “vaccines” have efficacy.’
So, do you agree with 71% of voters who say that pharmacists should only recommend remedies backed by science, or will you continue to buy and use homeopathic treatments?