MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The question whether pharmacists should sell unproven alternative medicines will not go away. On this blog, we have discussed it repeatedly, for instance here, here and here. The Australian Journal of Pharmacy’s latest poll shows that readers have their suspicions about the validity of naturopathic medicines, with a whopping 544 voters choosing the option, “No, there’s no evidence they work” at the time of writing.

This constitutes 65% of readers who took part in the poll. A significant minority – 193 readers, with 23% of the vote – said that pharmacies should stock these medicines as they are legitimate products. Five per cent said that while they questioned their efficacy, pharmacy should stock them; and 3% said they were unsure, but the public wanted them.

Taree pharmacist and member of Friends in Science and Medicine Ian Carr, who has spoken to the AJP several times in the last couple of weeks as debate has continued about the subject of naturopathy in pharmacy, said he was surprised and pleased at the strength of the No vote. “I looked at [the poll] on the first day, and there was definitely a majority saying these things have no evidence, but there was still above 30% saying yes, they were legitimate products,” Carr told the AJP. “That’s been dwarfed by a lot of people who’ve looked in, and it’s interesting to have that many people vote. “I’m glad that it seems to be becoming recognised that there’s a need for the evidence base in these things, and the difference between having a naturopathic product or supplement on the shelf, and having somebody there charging for their time, as a naturopath, dispensing advice without knowing the patient’s background and without an intervention by a registered pharmacist.” He encouraged pharmacists concerned about the validity of naturopathy to consider what products and services they offer.

Where naturopaths are used, they should at least be expected to keep a record of products and advice dispensed, he says, similar to protocols around blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring. “If there’s going to be an insistence that naturopaths remain, that’s the way I’d like to see it: that the pharmacy has good records and oversight of what they’re doing. I think, given our connection to the PBS and the fact that we as pharmacists are looking for a more serious role as part of the health care team generally, and having a more active and integrative role, we would be silly to fritter it away on peripheries like naturopathy. I personally see the opportunities in evidence-based medicine and what flows from that, rather than trying to make up dollars. We’re more likely to lose control of pharmacy if we don’t guard it jealousy.”

One of the suppliers of CAM products to pharmacies responded to the article by stating the following:

“The complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs) sector and its role in healthcare management continues to be hotly debated by the media. Rather than dissuade this debate, we actively encourage this discussion, as it shines a light on many issues which need to be addressed. Of priority is the point that not all complementary and alternative medicine products are equal. As in many media articles, an incredibly wide spectrum of products are grouped under the label of ‘CAMs’. Products with specific clinical evidence, high-quality manufacturing processes and transparency on the sourcing of ingredients are not clearly identified from products without these qualities. Consumers and healthcare professionals are unable to distinguish this difference due to a lack of clear labelling. We agree with calls for CAMs products to be more thoroughly assessed, beyond being simply classified as ‘safe’. Healthcare professionals and consumers deserve this information and are indeed asking for it. Consumers are aware of the impact of their choices and that their demand drives industry change. History is littered with recent examples where consumer awareness has changed the marketplace for the better. Consumer-driven change in the CAMs industry IS possible, it just needs to be supported. The Australian CAMs industry needs to increase healthcare professional and consumer education on the importance of evidence-based CAM products; on what ‘evidence-based’ means and what this difference delivers… Healthcare professionals are key to helping their patients understand that not all CAMs or natural medicine products are equal… It takes time to change the way people see CAMs and natural medicines – but it is of inherent value for the consumer. Something, we believe, is integral to the future of the industry.”

The arguments are clearest, if we focus on a specific type of alternative medicine and spell out what precisely we are talking about. The one that comes to mind is, of course, homeopathy. In my view, there is no good reason why pharmacists should sell homeopathic remedies. It is comforting to know that the Chief Scientist of the UK Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Professor Jayne Lawrence, agrees; she stated about a year ago that “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.”

And what has changed since?

Nothing, as far as I can see – but please correct me, if I am wrong.

I think it is important that we remind the community pharmacists everywhere that they have their very own codes of ethics and that they need to adhere to them. If they don’t, they tacitly agree that they are not really healthcare professionals but mere shop-keepers.

108 Responses to Pharmacists: to sell quackery means you are quacks – or have I got that wrong?

  • A significant minority – 193 readers, with 23% of the vote – said that pharmacies should stock these medicines as they are legitimate products.

    Whoopee cushions and porno mags are legitimate products. Perhaps they’d like to rephrase this?

    • In the spirit of disclosure and Truth in Advertising, perhaps any pharmacy that wants to market these products should have a separate “placebo” aisle, with prpminent labelling saying something like “this product contains no active ingredients. We sell it only for profit, not for therapeutic benefit.”

      • This PLACEBO labeling would provide refreshing honesty and a new meaning to truth in advertising. It will never happen in our lifetime as long as “health care” providers(predominantly Alternatives), pharmacies, health food stores and groceries,etc maintain greedy, unethical power via lobbyists over legislators who control laws that allow such fraud. The sarcasm is certainly warranted and the disclaimer is so true for a change.

      • Many people are convinced that placebo is the same as a drug, only without side effects. And labelling won’t help. Like the list of the side effects in the present form does not help at all. They simply do not notice frequencies, ignore information that this list serves legal purposes (everything that can happen must be mentioned, but it does not mean it will happen)….

    • Paracetamol in pregnancy may up autism, ADHD risk in kids

      Taking common painkillers during pregnancy more often is likely to raise the risk of autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, especially boys, new research warns.

      http://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/paracetamol-in-pregnancy-may-up-autism-adhd-risk-in-kids/53021249

      • and what has that to do with the subject of this post?

        • If, as you say, the patient comes first, then surely we need to see an even handed approach to your attack on pharmacists as to what they sell and the health warnings on the products. So, where can I view your remarks warning of the dangers of allopathic medicines?

          • I do worry about your mental state!
            this is a blog about alternative medicine!!!
            do you get it?

          • Thank you for your kind concern; however, I do understand the nature of this blog and have merely asked you to point me to where else I might find your warning comments about allopathic medicine, of which I note from your book, that you are aware.

  • When I heard about the plans of an Australian supplement company to station naturopaths in pharmacies across the country I attempted to write a “satirical” piece on it. I tried to explain the complex world of CAM and placing naturopaths (and their products) in pharmacies in simple terms. I came up with an analogy comparing CAM with a car without an engine – granted I am not sure if the analogy works.

    https://frankvanderkooy.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/what-does-a-car-and-complementary-medicine-have-in-common-more-than-you-know

  • In response, I again refer back to your own words in the GUARDIAN Thursday 25 September 2003

    ” This is a scientist willing to explore the unthinkable and unwilling to be told what to think. Scientific logic says homeopathy cannot work, but Ernst continues to study its therapies not to shoot it down, but in the hope of discovering what it is that does work. He treats his French wife with homeopathy, he says. “We were both brought up with it.” But he adds: “People mistakenly think I must be a promoter of complementary medicine – that I should have an allegiance to the camp. I don’t. My allegiance is firstly to the patient – I feel that very strongly as an ex-clinician – and secondly to science. If in the course of that I have to hurt the feelings of homeopaths I regret that, but I can’t help it.”

    It now seems that you are now advocating that people should be told what to think and have their freedom of choice removed. If the products don’t work than people won’t buy them by exercising their right to choose. To do otherwise is nothing short of suppression through dictatorship that you experienced and rejected in your early life. It seems that your allegiance is now to put science first and that your allegiance to the patient seemingly no longer exists. You have again singled out homeopathy, the one form of medicine that you have had a positive experience with, as your focus of attention, why?

    QUOTE
    “His German father and grandfather were both doctors, and like many German doctors, his father prescribed homeopathic remedies. As a teenager in Munich he was treated for hepatitis with homeopathy by a family doctor, and recovered. After he completed his medical training his first job was in a homeopathic hospital.”

    You have already identified the problems that homeopathy in particular has in getting funding for research but now use the so called “lack of research” to attack the very form of treatment that enabled you to recover from hepatitis.

    QUOTE
    “His biggest frustration is over the lack of funding for the research he wants to do. It matters. A quarter of the population and close to 100% of cancer patients use complementary medicine, and yet 0.5% of charitable funds and 0.8% of NHS grants go to CAM studies. “That to me is pretty outrageous.”

    In the case of cancer, I suggest that you read the following http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921611/ which offers sufficient “plausible scientific evidence” that should be supported and explored properly to establish, or otherwise, the mechanism of action, which may well have the potential to alleviate the suffering of many. So your support in this connection would demonstrate that your comments in the Guardian, were in fact genuine and would demonstrate that patients are truly your first allegiance.

    • “It now seems that you are now advocating that people should be told what to think and have their freedom of choice removed”.

      Freedom of choice removed – a fascinating argument. I usually compare this to the rapid growth in the use of the drug, Ice. A massive problem in Australia and yet the government is actively removing the consumers choice. Surely it has to be your choice to use Ice or not, and the scientists that know how harmful Ice is should not speak up in order to protect this choice of the consumer. Really? Or should the scientists, being paid by the taxpayer, speak up and warn people of the dangers associated with Ice? (or homeopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy etc).

      • Are you really comparing a so called “nothing” homeopathic remedy with a dangerous drug?

        • Are you really advocating a return to caveat emptor? Do you want to do away with all consumer protection?

          • Here is just one tragic story of a ypung woman with an (initially) treatable disease who died due to choosing homeopathic “treatment” over effective medical care:
            http://www.homeowatch.org/news/dingle_finding.pdf

            COnsumers are not getting real “choice” unless they receive full disclosure. Any product without evidence of efficacy, or without biological plausibility, should be prominently labelled as such.

          • This is indeed a tragic story that has many lessons for all of us. We have to ask why and what is the underlying cause of such a case. If you read my various responses to others in this blog you may get a clue as to the cause. This case may well have had a much different outcome with greater trust and understanding by both sides by using an integrated approach. Homeopathy, when used alongside conventional cancer treatment can reduce risks and fears. Let’s remove the ‘either or’ scenario from the debate!

          • Colon, by advocating integration of science based health care with non science based magic you are promoting all faith or fear based business scams, as voodoo, faith healers, witch doctors, palm readers,homeopathy and other alternative nonsense. Many claim magic works when they are fooled.

          • What an opportunity to sort the wheat from the chaff and undertake some productive research. As an MD, I am sure that you will be aware of the high rate of suicides among Doctors and have presumably wondered why. The following short video may provide an insight:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrewtDijV08

          • Oh good grief, Colin! The video is introduced by none other than David Tregennick, MP, the laughable loony of Leicestershire. He believes (out loud in Parliament) that blood doesn’t clot under the full moon and that astrology should be used in medical practice. If you think this intellectual basket case provides credible support for your persistent pleas for some kind of ‘cooperation’ you couldn’t have chosen a worse example.

        • We are discussing freedom of choice. Granted there is differences between Ice and for example homeopathy. First difference is benefit. Ice at least have some sort of biological effect – it is however debatable of one can call this a “benefit” although many consumers will choose to call this a real benefit. Homeopathy does not have a benefit other than a placebo effect. Risks; Ice can cause you to die through direct action whereas homeopathy can kill you through indirect action. The former is illegal because it can kill you and the consumers freedom of choice is simply being ignored by government whilst the latter is legal, although it can also kill you (indirectly), and then everyone claims that government should not interfere with the freedom of choice of consumers. Strange world we live in!

          • You have evidence that homeopathy has killed someone? if so please share details.

          • Many homeopaths and other alternatives discourage patients from legitimate health care and vaccines and encourage ridiculous pseudo remedies instead, leading to poor health or death. One recent well published case involved the Canadian child who died from meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia due to his alternative believing parents and their so called health provider.

        • I started my letter that I send to the Vice Chancellor of our University with:

          “368,379 people killed, 306,096 injured and over $2,815,931,000 in economic damages. A complementary medicine (CM) practitioner arrested and parents jailed whilst a professor supporting these CM’s receive accolades.”

          I still cannot understand how this is possible!

          Here is the link:
          https://frankvanderkooy.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/the-national-institute-of-complementary-medicine-australia-what-are-they-up-to

    • Colin said:

      In the case of cancer, I suggest that you read the following http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921611/

      Although it is stated in that puff piece of an article that two of the authors, Prasanta Banerji and Pratip Banerji, were associated with the PBH Research Foundation (or, to give it its full title for the sake of clarity, the Prasanta Banerji Homoeopathic Research Foundation) it’s odd that they ‘disclosed no potential conflicts of interest’, when they would appear to be its owners and – presumably (please correct me if that is wrong) – earn a living from it.

      • Is that a reason why it should be ignored?

        • No, and I never said it was.

        • It’s a reason why a high level of suspicion should be raised. By the time the reader reaches the third sentence of the abstract it’s clear the article should be ignored. “The recent discovery of nanoparticles in traditional homeopathic medicines…” is pure nonsense. The evidence for this statement is laughable.

          • You have evidence to the contrary? If so please share details.

          • One of the best know ‘nanotechnology’ studies of homeopathic substances found that, if you put magic water in a glass bottle and bang it on a firm surface, the glass releases nanoparticles of silica. These are not therapeutic.

            Basic priniciples of physics and chemistry continue to apply – homeopathy has not been granted any exemptions.

          • Please share your evidence that nanoparticles are not a valid mechanism of action and I will willingly interview you for a documentary as I need a sound opposing view to add balance to the programme

          • The newest mass spectrometers can detect parts per billion or even per trillion. Water contains many differents elements and even organic compounds at those levels. That it is there does not make water active against any disease. To use the term nanoparticles is to intentionally mislead the public to think that homeopathy is based on science. The old trick of using accepted scientific terminology to validate a non scientific modality such as homeopathy. And so many people fall for it.

          • Is that your opinion or is it evidence based, if so, please share the paper.

          • @Colin

            “You have evidence to the contrary? If so please share details.” Of the three references cited in the paper you link to I have read only the 2010 publication by Chikramane et al, which seems to be the most widely cited and well regarded in the homeopathic community. The authors report a series of uncontrolled experiments in which they find amorphous microscopic goo in homeopathically high dilutions of various starting materials.

            It’s a joke! If there were respectable, robust experimental evidence for nanoparticles of original material in something that’s been diluted beyond the point at which no original material should be present, the publication would make it into top flight scientific journals. The sloppy science represented in this paper is typical of experimental homeopathic studies: done by authors who don’t have the first clue about experimental science.

          • Engage and cooperate with research with an open mind is the way forward. The problem is that if this line of research, which will continue, proves to be the answer, it may well create a financial crisis for the industry that you seem to be protecting so why would you want to cooperate? Quite a dilemma for the world to face in many directions of putting the future of the planet and all within it before profit!

          • Colin,

            Please read, and properly understand, the article “Homeopathy: 10 parts per billion” by Guy Chapman:
            http://www.chapmancentral.co.uk/blahg/2011/02/homeopathy-10parts-per-billion/

          • An interesting article, thank you, but lacks the spirit of scientific curiosity that is needed for tha advancement of knowledge and even more importantly understanding that can best be achieved by way of co-operation, not hostility.

          • Colin

            It’s the homeopaths who make the extraordinary claims; let them provide the extraordinary proof then maybe we can have a pow-wow.

          • Colin, The article ends: “Has anyone seen a discussion of these two problems in the homeopathy literature?”

            That *is* the spirit of scientific curiosity and co-operation. I am likewise curious to see the two fundamental problems scientifically addressed in the homeopathy literature. Sweeping them under the carpet and/or describing scientific questioning as “hostility” are the antitheses of curiosity and co-operation.

    • Adullts have the freedom to choose treatments but deserve the right to know the proven, high quality science-based risks and benefits to any therapy they buy, especially if used in place of legitimately regulated products.(informed consent). Big Alternative industries are just as greedy and wealthy as big Pharma. They just have little to no regulation or proof. 21 billion dollars were spent on vitamins and herbs in the US in 2014, with minimal benefits for the majority other than those who make a sell the junk.

  • Wow, start off a poll by leading the answer:

    “Pharmacist and long-time critic of the stocking of unproven complementary medicines, Ian Carr has reiterated previous calls for the products to be removed from pharmacies, leading to a debate with proponents of CAMs.”

  • To the supplier of CAM products who states, “Products with specific clinical evidence, high-quality manufacturing processes and transparency on the sourcing of ingredients are not clearly identified from products without these qualities”, I can only say that all the quality manufacturing in the world doesn’t mean a product is of value in the treatment of disease, “specific clinical evidence” or not. Any number of so-called CAM products can be shown to have specific clinical evidence in small clinical trials, but the quality of evidence and reliability of the substance in repeatedly showing efficacy in large, well-controlled randomized trials is what counts. Short of those, they can’t be expected to engender confidence, regardless of the acceptance or demand by the public who want to believe they work.

  • Colin,

    “You have evidence that homeopathy has killed someone? if so please share details.”

    You know just as well as I do that CAM including homeopathy kills by indirect action (some herbal preparations kills by direct action). If you want evidence please see below:

    http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/cam02_nhmrc_statement_homeopathy.pdf

    https://frankvanderkooy.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/how-to-make-homeopathic-medicine-at-home-a-quick-step-by-step-guide

    http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html

    • First link: there was much wrong with that report that was pointed out to the authors prior to publication that was ignored so it becomes another example of non- cooperation that has unfortunately taken us nowhere.

      Second link: your example of making a remedy from a cup of tea, whilst amusing, may actually work if the person was addicted to drinking tea in a way that was causing harm! Otherwise the content confirms that the author has absolutely no experience whatsoever of the subject which can only be Achieved through years of study and practice and is a person highly unlikely to understand the principles of respect for the views of others and advancement through cooperation

      • many examples of especially green tea causing harm.

        Out of curiosity, and something that I’ve asked myself a lot. What would you say is the absolute top homeopathic medicine out there amongst the thousands you can buy. Surely there is one or two where all the evidence is in and it works beyond any (scientific) doubt?

        • The Banerji Protocols mentioned in the paper I previously posted, provide many documented examples backed by MRI Scans and Xrays of their experience in treating cancer For example:

          BRAIN TUMOURS/CANCER
          Period 2005 to 2014 4,135 cases
          RESULTS
          Improved MB+B+SB = 63%
          Static = 24%
          Aggravate/Expired = 9%
          Discontinued = 4%

          Protocol Ruta 6c twice daily & Calc Phos 3X twice daily.

    • Third link: Impressive list of cases that can easily be swamped by the number of cases of harm caused by allopathic medicine and is an example of the harm that can be generated by the toxic nature of this debate. It also proves my point that cooperation is the only way forward by integration of both forms of treatment rather than the dualistic choice of one way or the other which serves no-one

      • Colin said:

        Impressive list of cases that can easily be swamped by the number of cases of harm caused by allopathic medicine…

        Are you suggesting we have two lists side be side and check off the names?

        …and is an example of the harm that can be generated by the toxic nature of this debate.

        No, no it’s not. It a pointer to the failure of homeopathy fans to address the actual problem of the lack of good evidence for specific effects of homeopathy.

        It also proves my point that cooperation is the only way forward by integration of both forms of treatment rather than the dualistic choice of one way or the other which serves no-one

        No. It’s a false dichotomy.

  • Naturopaths in Australian pharmacies is one thing. Building a fully functional Chinese Medicine Hospital in Sydney next to a conventional hospital (Westmead) is quite another thing. Unfortunately this is the future plans of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University. Providing positive results for CAM is step 1, training naturopaths (with funding from the CAM industry) is step 2. Registering all different types of CAM practitioners (to ensure safety and efficacy of CAM) is step 3, placing naturopaths etc in pharmacies and “wellness” centres is step 4 and then at the pinnacle you get a fully functional CAM hospital in order to integrate CAM with conventional healthcare. They are well on their way to achieve this. And this is what I am trying to prevent.

  • just the other day I walked through our local pharmacy and I had a good look at the shelf stacked with homeopathic, detox etc. remedies. The question that I asked myself was that if a naturopath was working there when will they refer me to the pharmacist? The pharmacist usually works behind the counter with prescription medications so my first point of contact will be the naturopath. If I have a minor issue the naturopath will obviously prescribe me one of their products but what if I have a more serious condition? I do not think that the naturopath will ever refer me to the pharmacist because of their cognitive dissonance and their inherent conflict of interest. I truly find this to be a very dangerous move by the CAM industry.

    • Easy answer: stop attacking naturopathic medicine and encourage cooperation!

      • Out of curiosity. What goes on in your head when you read in the paper of another child who has died due to the parents insisting on naturopathic medicine. What do you think then? Or is this the time that you come up with this nanoparticle crap – to soothe your own conscience?

        • I have already answered this. How do you feel about those that die because of over medication. Cooperation not antagonistic attitudes

          • You seek cooperation; what of the cooperation of Prof Ernst with homeopaths and the like during his time at Exeter? Or did his research not come up with the right answer?

      • How about this as a first step in cooperation. Admit that homeopathy and many other CAM modalities doesn’t work! Stop selling it! And let us together focus on those few herbal remedies that do show some promise!

        • First of all, whatever I say or think will not change anything; however, you could of course admit that homeopathy does work in some cases and acknowledge that is does has a role to play in healthcare. Remember it is the sceptics that are applying an extraordinarily amount of time, money and energy in attempt to wipe homeopathy off of the planet. I am not aware that the reverse is true, so that co-operation would best be achieved by changing your focus!

          • Colin said:

            First of all, whatever I say or think will not change anything; however, you could of course admit that homeopathy does work in some cases and acknowledge that is does has a role to play in healthcare.

            Why would anyone do that?

            Remember it is the sceptics that are applying an extraordinarily amount of time, money and energy in attempt to wipe homeopathy off of the planet.

            Are they? Why do you say that?

            But how does that ‘extraordinary’ amount of time and money compare to, say, the amount of time homeopaths spend earning a living from selling their services and sugar pellets?

          • @Colin

            “I am not aware that the reverse is true…” Your awareness is defective. Take a look at World Homeopathy Awareness week and the several campaigns organized by the British Homeopathy Association for a start. Homeopathy has the energetic support of the British Royal Family. We know that the heir to the throne lobbies the elected government about it. Making it out to be devoid of time, money and energy for its loobying and self promotion is as ridiculous as your picture painted today on another thread in this blog of poor little homeopaths with no funds or expertise to run proper clinical trials.

            As for an “attempt to wipe homeopathy off of the planet”, I for one would not subscribe to that ambition. I would dearly like to imagine I could wipe gullibility and credulity off the planet but I am well aware the majority of people don’t even know what critical thinking might be, let alone practise it.

          • What about the extraordinary amount of money generated by homeopathic sellers like Boiron ? How someone could sell remedies at high scale with no proof of their action or benefits ? How is this remotely ethical ? How with all this money there is still no correctely done clinical trial ? I will give you the answer : because they do not want to, homeopthy do not work, it have been shown time and time again, they will just shoot themselves in the foot by doing right trials that show not effect of their remedies. No need to appeal to paranoia and conspiration about scientists trying to ‘destroy’ homeopathy.

  • When a group of us canvassed local supermarket chains about their selling Oscillococcinum (a homeopathic anti-flu product) all responded with some variety of “we’ll continue to sell it as long as it’s profitable and legal”.

    • yes, I would have expected that from shop-keepers – but community pharmacists pretend to be healthcare professionals with ethical standards…

    • That’s essentially what Boots the Chemist said when they gave evidence at the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee Evidence Check into homeopathy.

      When asked “Do they work beyond the placebo effect”, Paul Bennett, Professional Standards Director and Superintendent Pharmacist at Boots, said: “I have no evidence before me to suggest that they are efficacious…”

    • Agreed. It is legal to sell water as medicine to sick people and that is why at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine they take the taxpayers money to extensively lobby politicians and regulators to keep CAM legal and even further relax the current lax regulations on CAM. You don’t need to do any science! The legality of it is the problem.

    • I’m just back from my local pharmacy, picking up a regular prescription. The pharmacy’s under new management, with two entirely new faces behind the counter. They tried to sign me up for two ‘new’ services. The first was a minor ailments service — if I’ve a problem too minor to justify visiting a GP, the pharmacist will assess the situation and suggest an appropriate remedy. The second was a ‘chronic conditions service’. If they know all about my medical history they can check that my prescriptions are appropriate.

      I responded that the ‘minor ailments service’ was just ‘business as normal’: if I’ve a minor medical problem I’d happily discuss it with a pharmacist. The ‘chronic conditions service’ worried me a little more. I asked if, in the event they judged a doctor’s prescription inappropriate for my chronic condition, they would alter it. The answer was a non-committal ‘it just helps us to double check’.

      So I asked if they supplied homeopathic products. The answer was affirmative. They were obliged to supply them in response to doctors’ NHS prescriptions. I suggested that, in the context of their double checking ‘service’, it might be appropriate to advise a patient bearing an NHS doctor’s prescription for a homeopathic product, s(he) could do equally well with a teaspoonful of water QD. Their faces showed they were not prepared for argumentative customers, so I dropped further discussion.

      It seems to me that retail pharmacists are in a cleft stick. As long as NHS physicians prescribe ineffective remedies they are obliged to fulfil the prescriptions. But if they are going to make it clear they’re able and willing to provide over-the-counter help and advice, there is no reason they shouldn’t try to talk customers who ask for homeopathy out of wasting their money; or at least refer them to a ‘qualified’ homeopath who can give them the individualized treatment we are repeatedly told is essential.

      • Yeah, I’m sure it absolutely busts them up inside having to sell that fat-profit Harry Potter Water all because the meanie NHS GPs made them do it. Perhaps they’d like to name those GPs so GMC complaints can be filed accordingly? No? Thought not.

        Profit before ethics, business as usual.

        • Another example of the toxic attacks that do nothing to help the patient

          • Well this risible gibberish does nothing to help patients.
            (Found here)

            Talk about demolishing history and ignoring facts to fit your own agenda.

          • My agenda is to discover the truth in an open minded way and have found that allopathic medicine does not have all the answers as the following two doctors have found:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrewtDijV08

          • @Colin
            If you’re going to double-link to the same shitty video, consisteing of deluded people literally arm waving, I’m going to copy and paste my response from that other thread.

            Oh good grief, Colin! The video is introduced by none other than David Tregennick, MP, the laughable loony of Leicestershire. He believes (out loud in Parliament) that blood doesn’t clot under the full moon and that astrology should be used in medical practice. If you think this intellectual basket case provides credible support for your persistent pleas for some kind of ‘cooperation’ you couldn’t have chosen a worse example.

          • Have you ever spoken to David Tredinnick? Have you actually listened to what the two doctors had say? I don’t recall seeing them wave their arms about when I interviewed them, so to what do you refer?

          • Colin,

            The problem is you are here in 2016, trying to behave as if homeopathy is some newly discovered wonder that people are unfairly rubbishing. That just demonstrates your apparent ignorance of the vast literature on homeopathy published over more than 200 years. For a very recent, dispassionate account of its long history, please read Richard Rawlins’ Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine. (Rawlins even sides with you in seeking a cooperative outlook to finding just how the placebo effect works, in an effort to turn it to better prospective use.)

            For a 19th century view of homeopathy please read Oliver Wendell Holmes and Dan King, both of whom raise precisely the same objections to homeopathy as people on this blog; objections that homeopathic ‘research’ has not overcome in more than a century.

          • You need to know where to look and speak to. I have sited results achieved using the Banerji Protocols in an earlier post today!

          • Colin said:

            You need to know where to look and speak to.

            Why?Does someone have The Special Knowledge, only available to those with the secret password?

            I have sited results achieved using the Banerji Protocols in an earlier post today!

            No, I don’t think you have.

          • Colin,

            “I don’t recall seeing them wave their arms about when I interviewed them, so to what do you refer?” Try, e.g. 2:30 onwards. But I was mainly alluding to the arm-waving of the speakers in the <figurative sense. ‘Arm waving’ is statement of opinions based on instinct, experience, hypothesizing and so on, in the absence of hard evidence. It’s a variant of the ‘argument from authority’ fallacy. The interview format is particularly prone to encouraging arm waving.

            I did listen to what the doctors said. We have appreciated for decades that the reason many patients are driven into the arms of placebo-based medicine is unhappiness (for many reasons) with conventional medicine. The video adds nothing new to that situation. You really should read Rawlins’ book I referred to before: he’s on your side in suggesting we should work to find where medicines with only type 1 effects might be deployed with benefit. (But he’s dead set against the intellectual castration of patients by pretending that CAM has genuine type 2 effects.)

            Your comment implies you made the video. That means you’re associated with Chiron Health Choices, an organization so dedicatedly committed to cooperation and transparency that its website (http://www.chironhealthchoices.co.uk/author/ctfcfa-solutions-net/page/2/) is only open to members!

          • There is nothing on that site to prevent you from subscribing to gain access to its full content.

          • The word “pretending ” is a bad choice. Both doctors are very sincere in what they say which is based on practical down to earth experience and was entirely unprompted. The lack of cooperation and toxic attacks make “arm waving ” as you put it, inevitable. Perhaps you would like to involve yourself in such interviews, We do need to present both sides of the debate in order to encourage cooperation.

          • @Colin

            “Perhaps you would like to involve yourself in such interviews, We do need to present both sides of the debate in order to encourage cooperation.” Sorry, nothing doing. From my perspective there’s no debate. Homeopathists are trying to breathe continuing life into something that is dead and should have been abandoned long ago along with views that the earth is flat, that the earth is the centre of the universe, that phlogiston is released in combustion, and that living forms arise by spontaneous generation.

  • @Colin

    My agenda is to discover the truth in an open minded way…

    From what you have presented here and we have been able to find out about you and your activities, through your input here and the aforementioned website, your agenda is obviously not to find an unconfirmed truth but to seek confirmation of that which you already believe to be the truth.

    You have to understand Colin, that you are not discussing this matter here on this blog with uneducated, gullible novices. You are discussing with normal, rational, educated people, most of whom have spent years studying science, facts and evidence. Some of us have extended experience in scientific fact finding, some are even experts in fields of science and healthcare.
    Due to our dedication for seeking truth, for promoting health and for the welfare of our fellow human beings (even in cases like mine, for our patient’s welfare) we have had many discussions and dealings with persons like you who have for reasons easily explained by well known psychological phenomena, become mired in the religion called homeopathy. We do not disrespect such persons. We understand very well why they have become so deluded and we know the mechanisms of the mind that explain why they refuse to acknowledge glaringly obvious facts of life. It is in essence because they are defending an illusion, which if broken will cause them severe mental pain and anguish. Therefore they subliminally avoid facing the opposite, rational explanation that fits well with reality. This is called cognitive dissonance.

    The reason we are blunt and often harsh in our responses and why I am writing in no uncertain terms, is because homeopaths and many other providers of make-believe-medicine are not only pretending to care for the worried well and minor, self limiting health issues. They are also meddling with real, serious health problems which need to be dealt with properly. Apart from the financial harm such interference sometimes causes significant disturbance and/or delay in proper healthcare resulting in harm and even death.
    Examples and references to cases of disastrous consequences from homeopathy have been given here and can be easily found in accessible media.
    We cannot tolerate or respect this kind of folly.

    That is why we are so prone to harsh and seemingly disrespectful responses to your naive questions and claims based on obvious dissonance with reality. The ideas and theories you are promoting and want to confirm fly so strongly in the face of everything we know about the world we live in that it would not even be necessary to have this discussion if it were not for the perils of promoting and practicing homeopathy.
    Yours and other homeopaths fantasies of water memory, nanoparticles, quantum-something or another etc., are nothing but feeble, frantic attempts at explaining an illusion and confirming unreal ideas.
    You can carry on citing Chikramane, Benveniste, Emoto, Montagnier, and any number of easily debunked “authorities” till the Greenland Icepack melts, it will not even start to convince us that evaporated shaken clean water from an astronomically thin serial dilution that once contained strychnine, Belladonna, a morsel of the Berlin Wall, housflies, cowdung or whatever foolishness some homeopath has conjured, might possibly leave an unknown healing force in sugar pills. The notion is from the beginning so foolishly far fetched it is beyond comprehension that someone who finished elementary school believes such drivel.

    Now why am I even spending time writing this?… because I CARE!!! – That is my agenda. I have seen too many desperate patients fall prey for fools and charlatans to be able to keep quiet.

    • Through my own life journey, I have discovered that many CAM therapies work but accept that my opinion is not considered to be “evidence” just as the opinions of millions of people around the world are discarded as “foolish”. I am not a scientist but have a long working life studying human psychology at a practical level. I am interested to understand why experienced health professionals become disillusioned with allopathic medicine and follow a less lucrative career in CAM. I find that this is best achieved by way of filmed interviews. I am also interested in documenting on film, research and patient feedback as well as potential solutions that do not cause harm and potentially offer more informed choice. I have offered your “sceptic” group the opportunity to contribute, all of which have so far been declined.

      You claim that CAM is dangerous because delays during treatment prevent “proper” medical diagnosis and treatment. In this respect, I suggest that you take a close look at the part that you play in creating this patient dilemma. Your constant attacks on CAM leave the patient no alternative but to choose to go in one direction or the other as there is little or no integrated choice. Surely the best way forward is through integration and not division.

      I suggest that you spare 8 mins to watch the following exert from a 2 day master class on Cancer and then give your reasons why we should not be taking a closer look at this form of treatment and establish a trial within an oncology department so that the process can be closely monitored throughout.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pueJZhO4CgA

      • you are correct: opinion is no evidence AND NEITHER IS YOUR VIDEO!

        • I did not say that it is “evidence” as you describe but it is compelling. I do suggest however, that it should prompt open minded scientists to use these protocols as the basis of controlled trials in an oncology environment to prove or disprove your argument that homeopathy is at best placebo.

          Having now read your book “A Scientist in Wonderland”, which raises more questions than it answers, I fail to understand why you would not want to support such a trial.

  • What I don’t understand is the real reason that you have changed you views so dramatically, it can’t just be because you fell out with HRH.

    Extracts from ‘A Scientist in Wonderland’

    Page29: “…I had caught a mild form of infectious hepatitis. He monitored my liver function and gave me homeopathic remedies. My liver subsequently normalised, and we all concluded that homeopathy worked.”

    Page 31: “…After all, I had benefited from these strange remedies myself on numerous occasions. Perhaps my appointment as a junior doctor in a homeopathic hospital would enable me to get to the bottom of this paradox: on the one hand, homeopathic remedies could not possibly work, on the other hand, they clearly did help some patients to get better.”

    Page 32: “…What I saw was impressive. We were treating mostly chronic conditions, anything from asthma to rheumatoid arthritis and from migraine to obesity – lots of obesity. Despite the fact we were dishing out remedies which, as my pharmacology professor had insisted, contained precisely nothing, patients usually did get better, some even dramatically, so I was bowled over! Soon I found myself treating my mother, siblings and friends for this or that minor illness. Even my dogs did not escape my enthusiasm for the newly discovered pilules containing sugar and … sugar. ……………His reply to my question ”What precisely causes the improvement of our patients?” amazed me with its disarming honesty. ”It’s mostly due to the fact that we discontinue all the useless medications they have been taking previously” I had not thought of that possibility at all. But it was true; we did scrap most of the unnecessary drugs. I was struck by the amount of nonsensical prescriptions many patients had accumulated during the often long years of their medical history. All of these drugs, of course, did have the potential to cause side effects.”

    Page 36: …”At this stage, alternative medicine had become somewhat of a hobby. I enjoyed hands-on training in massage techniques and spinal manipulation, and occasionally I also practised the alternative therapies with which I had already become familiar…….This was a peaceful happy time for me and an important period in my professional life……..This was the time when I became a real doctor, able to differentiate between the important and the unimportant in patient care….”

    Page 39: …”To me, psychiatry, felt like medicine from the dark ages; cruel, and above all, based not on science but on speculation and supposition. …….my task now was to keep her from being “difficult” by sedating her up to the eyeballs. Since she had long since developed adverse side effects from the drugs, I refused to comply on medical grounds.”

    • LIKE ALL SCIENTISTS WORTH THEIR MONEY, I CHANGE MY VIEWS WHEN THE EVIDENCE REQUIRES IT.

      • So, to be clear, you are not prepared to support the research that I have suggested into the subject matter contained within the video extract provided earlier https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pueJZhO4CgA

        • are you trying to imitate a broken record?

        • @Colin

          We know you love videos, but they don’t really provide a satisfactory evidence base. The one you link to above raises far more questions than it provides answers. For starters, the ‘bottom line’ survival chart shows 52% of 4850 tumours treated over 10 years ‘improved’, but what’s the definition of ‘improved’? In the anecdotal case reports that form the bulk of the video the emphasis is on years survived, and that’s the usual basis on which success with cancer treatment is measured.

          The slides don’t mention specifically what treatments were used for the patients. In case 3 there is mention of two medications but I can’t make out what the presenter is saying, and this portion has no subtitles. There is mention of ‘gentle’ treatments. We need to know exactly how the patients were managed (a skeptic might even suggest they were also being treated by others than the doctor shown in the video) if you’re suggesting these anecdotal reports form a sensible basis for a research study.

          In short, the videos you link to are simply not an appropriate medium for providing any kind of evidence. By their nature the speakers cherry-pick cases to report, they offer hand-waving opinions, and hard facts are incomplete and difficult to discern. It is no accident that the medium of scholarly publications supported, for what it’s worth, by peer review has evolved as the de facto method for communicating real science.

          In the kindly but amateur world you inhabit of pleasant, cooperative thoughts all manner of strange things may make sense to you. Unfortunately, you seem to have undergone a critical thinking bypass.

      • To quote what John Maynard Keynes may have said:

        When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

    • Most people, including scientists, do not know what homeopathy is – tells you something about homeopaths marketing skills. I did not know what it was either, I always though it was straight forward undiluted herbal extracts and 5-10 years ago I would’ve given it an odd chance that some of it might work – some herbs do work (very few but some). But all of this changed, for me at least, why? because I studied what homeopathy was – something that very few people do. Most people, mind you almost no one, has the time to go and extensively study every single thing that they take, they tend to trust the professors and doctors that what they say is the truth or at least close to the truth. In the case of homeopathy: once you study it and understand what it is then there is unfortunately no turning back – it is a hoax. So sorry, I also changed my mind 10 years ago and like Prof Ernst said a good scientist can and should change their minds once the scientific evidence requires it. Otherwise you will be a fraud!

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