MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Today, I came across this intriguing bit of information:

This week is homeopathy awareness week and once again the controversial practice is in the news.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment. In its reference guide on homeopathic and herbal products, the RPS makes it clear that there is no evidence of the clinical efficacy of homeopathic products, beyond a placebo effect, and no scientific basis for the practice.

The RPS Chief Scientist Professor Jayne Lawrence has blogged on the history of homeopathy and why even in the face of the lack of evidence that it works, people are still actively seeking homeopathic treatment today. Jayne lays down a challenge to the profession; are we ready to remove homeopathy from the shelves of pharmacies?

And here are the relevant passages from Jayne Lawrence’s post:

…it is easy to see why homeopathy, with its use of ultralow doses of the treatment material, became so popular so quickly, despite the fact that a clinical trial performed as early as 1835 showed that homeopathy as a method of treatment was wholly ineffective.

…for homeopathy to work as claimed, we would have to completely revise our understanding of science. Any scientific evidence claiming to support homeopathy has either been shown to be flawed or not repeatable under controlled conditions. Furthermore, systematic reviews of modern clinical trials have supported the first early clinical trial showing that homeopathy has no more clinical effect than a placebo.

Is homeopathy’s popularity due to a distrust of modern medicines as has been recently suggested by the Chief Medical Officer for England who has just called for an independent review of the safety and efficacy of medicines? Or it is that patients are worried about the side effects associated with medicines, preferring what they perceive to be a safer approach; after all homeopathic preparations have not unsurprisingly no known toxic effects in over 200 years of use? Whatever the reason, as an evidence-based profession, why do we continue to sell homeopathic preparations in our pharmacies when the evidence shows that they do not work?

The public have a right to expect pharmacists and other health professionals to be open and honest about the effectiveness and limitations of treatments. Surely it is now the time for pharmacists to cast homeopathy from the shelves and focus on scientifically based treatments backed by clear clinical evidence.

Read the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Homeopathic and herbal products quick reference guide.

And here are the ‘key points’ of this ‘reference guide’:

• There is no evidence to support the clinical efficacy of homeopathic products beyond a placebo effect, and no scientific basis for homeopathy.

• Pharmacists selling homeopathic products must be competent to do so and be able to discuss with patients the lack of evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic products and their formulation.

• Pharmacists should ensure, wherever possible, that patients do not stop taking their prescribed conventional medication when they take a homeopathic product.

• Pharmacists should be aware that patients requesting homeopathic products may have serious underlying undiagnosed medical conditions that would require referral to another healthcare professional.

• Pharmacists should not knowingly sell homeopathic products for serious medical conditions. However, it is recognised people will self select homeopathic products from open display often without consulting a pharmacist.

• Royal Pharmaceutical Society does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment.

And finally, here is my very brief and somewhat impatient comment on all this.

I have pointed out these facts ad nauseam for many years. At one stage, pharmacists used to invite me to their conferences for me to tell them so. When this became too unpopular, I published articles and blog posts about this issue. Some pharmacists agreed with me, but their majority seemed just not interested. Some argued that, in the large chain pharmacies, they have little choice but to comply with their employer’s demands. Some found even more lame excuses. I usually replied that there is no choice: pharmacists have ethical codes that clearly prohibit the sale of bogus remedies. Selling homeopathic remedies in pharmacies means violating important ethical principles. Pharmacists have to decide whether they want to be shop keepers or health care professionals.

IT IS HIGH TIME THAT WORDS ARE FOLLOWED BY ACTIONS FROM PHARMACISTS AND THEIR PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATIONS.

11 Responses to Remove homeopathy from pharmacies: Royal Pharmaceutical Society Chief Scientist challenges profession to act

  • Perhaps the RPS should join forces with the BMA in calling for NICE to report on the cost-benefit of homeopathic remedies.
    It should be easy.
    There are no benefits attributable to the remedies.
    The cost-benefit ratio is therefore zero.
    But saying so would oblige doctors and pharmacists to practice with greater integrity than some currently display.

    Just who is it opposes this proposals?
    (Other than those with a vested interest in selling remedies, basing a career on pseudo-science or justifying bad rationalisation with obfuscation.)

  • I find it very disturbing that pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies. Unfortunately I don’t expect them to remove a source of profit. Dream on!

  • I guess there’s no point in trying to involve the MHRA, since they already gave a pass to homeopathy. Their mission “ensuring that medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion meet applicable standards of safety, quality and effectiveness ” includes the weasel word “applicable”, which allows them pretty much to define any standard they choose.
     
    But wait! What’s this they’re currently trumpeting on the MHRA website? “A 29 year old man was sentenced to prison for selling counterfeit and prescription-only medicines.” They don’t approve of fake madicines?! Errm; maybe they have applicable standards of fake.

  • Isn’t the cost-benefit ratio infinitely high rather than zero, assuming that one would divide cost by benefit? With benefit approaching zero, the quotient of cost/benefit approaches infinity.

  • While I’m sure they enjoy their homeopathy awareness week, perhaps they don’t want anybody to be too aware. Keep sayin’ it.

  • Homeopathy is not a pseudo science. Many natural medicines are toxic to human being in crude form. It maybe lethal to hypersensitive individual.
    Homeopathy advocate minimum effective does in treatment to avoid medical adverse effects.
    Hypothyroidism is a common clinical condition now. Common hormonal substitute used in modern medicine is” THYRONORM”. Its dose is 0.025 mg. (Is it ultra-dose?).
    Dose of LANOXIN (Digoxin) is about 0.25mg.
    Dose of anxiolytic- ALZOLAM (Alprazolam) is about 0.125 mg
    .All these medicines are version of homeopathic minimum dose principle.
    What are basic principle behind the application of these medicines in low or high dose?
    Medicine in low dose is more helpful for suffering of new born babies. Have any logical medicines or harmless dose in modern pharmacy shelf for born baby suffering?They are humans..
    Administration of medicines used in ultra-small dose is rational in babes or in those are hypersensitive to medicnal substances.
    Simple, similar and minimum are the three fundamental principle of homeopathy.

    • @Kader
      Doses less than 1 mg are not anywhere near homeopathic dilutions. The examples you cite are merely indications of the high potency of the drug molecules concerned, not the high potency of their dilutions.
      Homeopathic medicines at dilutions of 12C or above contain nothing, nada, nihil, not the teentsiest trace of the medicine. To suggest diseases can be treated with nothing is definitely pseudoscience, to put it very politely!

  • Homeopathy is not a pseudo science. Many natural medicines are toxic to human being in crude form. It maybe lethal to hypersensitive individual.
    Homeopathy advocate minimum effective does in treatment to avoid medical adverse effects.
    Hypothyroidism is a common clinical condition now. Common hormonal substitute used in modern medicine is” THYRONORM”. Its dose is 0.025 mg. (Is it ultra-dose?).
    Dose of LANOXIN (Digoxin) is about 0.25mg. Dose of anxiolytic- ALZOLAM (Alprazolam) is about 0.125 mg .all these medicines are version of homeopathic minimum dose principle.
    Medicine in low dose is more helpful for suffering of new born babies. Administration of medicines used in ultra-small dose is rational in babes and in those are hypersensitive to substances. Simple, similar and minimum are the three fundamental principle of homeopathy.

  • Please Kader! Try to read up on how homeopathic remedies are produced before you decide whether it is science or not.
    These medicines are about 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 times stronger than most common homeopathic remedies (30C) and that is before the water is dropped on sugar pills and let evaporate. If you can explain how that works and prove it, I can help you get in touch with the Nobel committee here in Oslo.

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