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Homeopathy: pharmacists dispense with professional guidance

Homeopathy remedy

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

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Comments
Member

Deja vu though Nancy. You eventually reach a point where banging your head against a brick wall really hurts, and becomes a pointless exercise. These people are prejudiced and biased against anything considered to be alternative, and whether it works or not. Bear in mind they never answer our posts with any degree of rationality, such as why 45,000 Medical Doctors practice Homeopathy within Europe.

I was going to post an actual case on the absolute 100% cure of “Eisenmenger Syndrome” (considered to be incurable by Mainstream) using high dose Ascorbate (24 Grams per day), and the role of Vitamin D3 supplementation (food sources are inadequate) in the cure (yes cure) of infant heart failure, when the alternatives would be a heart-transplant or death, and in answer to Davids post on the futility of taking supplements. We should try to understand that many here suffer from the: “all you need is a balanced diet” Syndrome: an emerging Medical condition it seems.

We will never change any of their minds Nancy and regardless of the evidence put forward, but I may just persevere a little longer.
What peeved me the most recently were the posters acting as Judge and Jury of Dr Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the Medical register as a scapegoat in the vaccine/regressive autism fiasco (I researched this thoroughly) because they are spoon-fed and just tow the party line. Some of these are supposed to be “scientists”…huh? excuse me!!
Good to have you here.

Member

Chris: “Judge and jury” on Wakefield? Not hardly.

The support from those who howl “abuse” over vaccines is a perfect example of the crank mindset. Everything is weighed according to the support it gives for their pre-existing agenda.

It’s a perfect microcosm of the battleground mentality of cranks. They don’t do nuance. That’s why science has such trouble laying their zombie arguments to rest: science *only* does nuance. A substantial body of evidence, including extensive comparison of records over several decades and several countries, provides no support for a link between MMR and autism. The response of the cranks is “see? there is doubt, you cannot *prove* it is safe!” – and then they subject their children to chelation therapy, God help us, in order to “cure” them.

So yes, to an irrational individual, trying to convince rational people of an irrational agenda will always look like banging your head on a brick wall. You could always try not doing that.

[This comment has been edited due to breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Member
Dr. Nancy Malik says:
27 May 2013

@Chris

based on my experience with dealing with skeptics for the last 5 years, you may or may not agree:

One should not argue with skeptics, or for the matter of fact, with anyone. Argument is a lost battle. There is no winner in an argument.

When I started 5 years, I was not that cool. But very quickly I realise it’s futile to argue with them (as you are feeling now) bcoz they are naysayers. Then I thought how to deal with them. So whenever they asked me questions, I started searching for the answers, if I don’t know them. More they ask me, more I got motivated to reply them but with evidence.

Then I realise they kept on asking more or less the same questions every time. That forced me to document my answers (what I said onlie foul langune) every time.
us
Then I realise the data is growing bigger. So I categorise the data that would make it look coherent and put up as blogposts.

Now I have reached a state where I do enjoy with them but do they? I doubt because I found many of them getting hot-headed with me especially on twitter and ultimately back out. They kept on trying different ways to confront me. But I never use foul language. I listen only to their questions that forced me to search and learn new things.

Member

Nancy: Whether or not you and Chris should keep arguing with skeptics rather depends on whether you want to proselytise your religion and look ridiculous in the process, or whether you want to stop looking ridiculous by shutting up until you have some actual credible evidence (which I confidently expect to arrive some time around the heat death of the universe).

Actually Chris has seriously undermined what little credibility the pro-homoeopathy side of this debate might have salvaged, by supporting Wakefield and defending a site that one of the most famous sources of abject nonsense on the internet.

Needless to say, I am very happy he came along!

Member

For those who spend time on multiple forums there is a certain sense that the most effective way to suborn a discussion is to “bat badly for the other side”. Not something that I have ever done BTW.

In passing I should mention you can buy software and multiple access points to the internet to become various characters. The software when loaded up will keep track of all a particular persona so you keep you story and style straight. The concept is designed to allow you to steer opinions or bury them with much generated cross-talk.

The Which? threads are highly conducive to burying as topics relevant cannot easily be seen and dealt with separately. Added to which as the posts are not numbered referring back to specific posts is a nightmare.

Now I have signed the alltrials petition which has surprisingly few signatories currently. I look forward to seeing people confirm here they have signed and from Which? that they will be publicising this with its general readership.

Member
Paul Morgan (@drpaulmorgan) says:
27 May 2013

Nancy.
You – despite multiple requests on many different discussion groups and fora – are yet to produce anything resembling credible evidence to show any benefit for homeopathy. You constantly harp on about studies you think show evidence of benefit, failing totally to understand such basic concepts as the placebo effect, observer bias, and regression towards the mean. Your repeated Gish Gallops of poor quality studies may impress some, but ultimately are always exposed as being worthless.
Let’s just stick to the scientific facts and evidence. Homeopathy has no basis in science. It is pre-scientific in its origins and has not advanced since, despite attempts by some to claim that water has a memory (it doesn’t) or that quantum effects are at play (they’re not). For homeopathy to work would mean scrapping all the laws of chemistry, physics and biology that have been shown to be based in evidence. Hahnemann’s “laws” of homeopathy have never been proved in any way, unlike, for example, Newton’s laws of motion. Finally, when studies of homeopathy are subjected to appropriate scientific scrutiny and the important factors I mentioned earlier are taken fully into account, the evidence is clear – it’s just a placebo, and a very expensive one at that. It’s called critical appraisal, something which homeopaths fail to either understand or accept.
You claim that skeptics have used foul language to you online, but when challenged to provide evidence of this, none is forthcoming. You mistake robust challenges to your views as being abusive when they are no more than robust and expose the lack of credibility to your arguments.
The data you claim shows increasing evidence for homeopathy sadly does no such thing. Adding more and more poor studies to a catalogue of poor studies simply shows homeopathy for what it is – worthless. All you and others are doing is exposing homeopathy for the nonsense it is and thereby allowing others to help expose it and in the process consign it to the annals of history. Keep up the good work!

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Member

Dieseltaylor

I agree that it would be a good idea to have post numbers. Obviously it is possible to see and quote the date and time of posts, but having numbers would be a great help. I’m not sure how best to make suggestions about how to improve Which? Conversation.

Member

Perhaps a Conversation? on how to improve Which? Conversation.

I would suggest: An edit feature as I often see a typo or remember something I should have sais just as soon as my post appears, Post numbers as I try to read all comments before I post but in Conversations like nuisance calls and beating the call centre, so many of the posts said the same thing it was difficult to get to the last read post. I know there is a date and time on each post but my drug muddled and ages brain can not remember such detail – a post number would be best. Also if I am subscribed to a conversation and access it through a link in the email, I should be directed to the post of that specific email.

I like the thumbs up/down as sometimes you just wish to agree or disagree with the post.

Members should also be able to suggest topics for Conversation and also suggest criteria for reviews I noticed in a ‘cleaning the stairs’ topic that many mentioned the weight of a vacuum cleaner, considered important for hand held cleaners but not for regular ones. Yet many mentioned the weight of regular cleaners as they used them for stairs.