As soon as you talk about homeopathy, it divides opinion. But the debate raises wider issues when some pharmacists fail to explain there’s no clinical evidence that certain alternative remedies work, like homeopathy.
There are people who swear by homeopathic remedies, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion. However, if you ask your pharmacist whether a homeopathic remedy works you’d expect their response to be based on scientific evidence. This is the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) official advice:
‘The pharmacist should advise on the lack of evidence on the efficacy of homeopathic products… and provide advice relevant to the patient’s condition.’
Some pharmacists say homeopathy works
However, in our snapshot investigation, 13 out of the 20 pharmacies our trained mystery shoppers visited failed to follow this guidance. For example, one pharmacist said that homeopathy does work and another said it’s very good and will help. The RPS does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment. And even though membership of the RPS is voluntary, our expert panel was clear that any pharmacist who recommends a homeopathic remedy should make it clear it’s their personal opinion.
On visits rated satisfactory and good by our expert panel, pharmacists were very clear about the lack of evidence. One said, ‘it’s all anecdotal, you know, it’s homeopathy, so there’s no science behind it.’
Separate personal experiences from professional advice
There was also no excuse for pharmacists who did not give the correct advice when asked about homeopathic treatment for a cough that had lasted over a month. 17 of them failed to spot this potentially serious undiagnosed condition – only three advised us to see a GP when asked for a homeopathic remedy for this cough. And our visits actually took place during a nationwide NHS campaign urging people to see their GP if they’d had a cough for more than three weeks.
We have to be able to rely on pharmacists to give us clarity over what we buy. It may be difficult if they have personally had positive experiences with homeopathic treatment. But they need to clearly separate the anecdotal, and their own views, from the evidence base. That surely has to be the hallmark of professionalism.
Should pharmacists only recommend remedies backed by scientific evidence?
Yes - pharmacists should only recommend remedies backed by science (68%, 715 Votes)
Maybe - as long as pharmacists make clear it's just their personal opinion (17%, 179 Votes)
No - pharmacists should be free to recommend any remedy, including homeopathy (15%, 158 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,052