MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

On 4 September 2018, during the FIP (78th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences), a meeting took place intended to give an opportunity to practising pharmacists to voice their opinions on the question whether pharmacies should stop selling homeopathic products. Attendees were provided with voting materials to allow them to express their views in a spontaneous and powerful manner, and for FIP to ascertain genuine opinions about this important matter. The debate and subsequent voting is likely to influence FIP policymaking and statement formulation. Here is the outline of the meeting:

The Great Debate – The motion “Pharmacists should not sell or dispense homeopathic products”

12:30 – 12:34 Introduction by the chairs

  1. 12:34 – 12:57 For the motion
    Geoff Tucker (University of Sheffield, UK)
  2. 12:57 – 13:20 Against the motion
    Christine Glover (Glover’s Integrated Healthcare, UK)
  3. 13:20 – 13:25 Ethical considerations related to homeopathy
    Betty Chaar (The University of Sydney, Australia)
  4. 13:25 – 13:35 Responses and summary
    Facilitator: Andy Gray (University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa)

    1. Against the motion
      Christine Glover (Glover’s Integrated Healthcare, UK)
    2. For the motion
      Geoff Tucker (University of Sheffield, UK)
  1. 13:35 -14:00 Open forum – Questions from the audience with speakers and chairs as panel/ Vote and concluding comments

The German ‘Pharmazeutische Zeitung‘ just published a report about the outcome of the meeting:

“Bei der Abstimmung im Anschluss sprachen sich fast zwei Drittel der im Auditorium anwesenden Pharmazeuten gegen eine Distribution von homöopathischen Produkten durch Apotheken aus. Mehr als ein Drittel stimmte für den Erhalt der Produkte in den Apotheken. Das Ergebnis habe keine bindende Wirkung für den Entscheidungsprozess des FIP, machte der Moderator der Sitzung, Andy Gray von der Universität KwaZulu Natal in Südafrika, deutlich. Es gebe aber einen Hinweis, in welche Richtung sich die Organisation orientieren sollte. (ch).”

In plain English: two thirds voted for the motion and against homeopathic products remaining on sale in pharmacies. The vote has, however, no binding effect on FIP policy. It is nevertheless likely to determine the direction in which FIP will decide.

I think this is long-overdue (I have been trying to persuade pharmacists to do something like this since ~15 years). I now applaud the FIP for raising the issue. Bravo!

What next?

The vote needs to be translated into policy.

Other healthcare professionals – not least doctors – must follow suit.

9 Responses to “Pharmacists should not sell or dispense homeopathic products”

  • I think that is great news. I found myself losing trust in the local pharmacists, once they started selling homeopathic products. I’ve written about it, in Danish, here (//henningjust.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/det-gor-det-ikke-nemt-at-stole-pa-dem/) and here (//henningjust.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/autoritet-alene/).

  • It’s a tidy result, but I wonder if the majority is smaller because such an ethical decision will effect revenues?

    I guess there’s a small pro-BS contingent in any organisation?

    Good news. Thanks for sharing.
    It’s something else to bore my poor but excellent local pharmacist with when chat next gets a chance.

  • Ah, Christine Glover surfaces again. She fancies herself as an authority on both homeopathy and pharmacy. I wrote about her 2 years ago:

    https://majikthyse.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/the-general-pharmaceutical-council-as-useless-as-ever/

    She is a past president of the RPS, and I pointed out to them that Glover is breaching their code of ethics. Stony silence since then:

    https://majikthyse.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/not-my-problem-mate/

    Very good to see that she was trounced in the debate, but appalled that a third of pharmacists support homeopathy.

  • Thank you for your continued efforts Edzard.

  • There were 5 pararrel sessions going on at he time, so how many pharmacists voted in his debate?

    • Interesting observation that may be encouraging if I’m correct to infer (no data available though) that the homeopathy lobby focused their head count on 1/5 of the rooms yet only managed a 1/3 influence for their business interest.
      Why am I so distrusting of the woo brigade?

  • Here’s how the Faculty of Homeopathy reported it in the November 2018 issue of their magazine:

    Pharmacists vote brings strong criticism from Faculty dean

    The Faculty’s pharmacy dean has called on members of his profession to find out more about homeopathy before “simply going with the flow” and criticising it. Mr Tony Pinkus made the remark in a statement he issued after a debate at an international pharmacy conference, where a motion calling for pharmacies to stop selling homeopathic products was supported by six out of ten pharmacy professionals.

    The debate took place at the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s (FIP) Congress in Glasgow at the beginning of September. Around 150 to 200 delegates took part and the result was 63% in favour of the motion that pharmacists should not sell or dispense homeopathic products.

    However, a spokesperson for FIP was quick to stress that this was not official FIP policy and that the nonbinding vote merely reflected the current “feeling” on homeopathy among the delegates.

    The spokesperson added: “The FIP is aware of the debate and the result, and will take this into account in any future policy work on this topic.”

    News of this development brought a brisk and robust response from the Faculty’s pharmacy dean. In a statement published on The Pharmacist website, Mr Pinkus said he was obviously concerned by the negative outcome from the debate at the FIP congress. But he went on to question whether those who supported the motion actually knew anything about homeopathy and were instead “simply going with the flow of an ignorant opinion and bias against something they simply do not understand”.

    “It seems obvious to anyone with a scientific brain that, if you want to understand something, you study it first before launching criticisms based on ignorance of the fundamental principles.”

    He continued: “With an AMR (antimicrobial resistance) crisis looming ever closer and pharmacy margins diminishing by the year, I would have thought pharmacists would have jumped at the chance to widen their radius of demand rather than thumb their nose at the opportunity.”

    Mr Pinkus concluded by encouraging those from his profession who have even the slightest interest in discovering more about homeopathy to contact the Faculty of Homeopathy and inquire about the courses on offer to pharmacists.

    And this appeared in the following issue, February 2019:

    Taking on the sceptics in Glasgow

    In November’s issue of simile we reported on a debate about homeopathy which took place at an international pharmaceutical congress. Pharmacist Christine Glover was the Faculty member invited to put the case for homeopathy. She shares her thoughts on her approach to that debate and its outcome.

    In January last year I received an invitation from an industrial pharmacist friend of mine to defend homeopathy at the International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress that was to take place in Glasgow in September 2018. The format was to be a debate that would hear arguments for and against the motion “Pharmacists should not sell or dispense homeopathic products.”

    With plenty of time to prepare I thought it a worthwhile challenge. Professor Geoff Tucker from Sheffield University would have 20 minutes to argue the case in support of the motion, then I would have the same amount of time to defend homeopathy and it use by pharmacists.

    All my working life I have endured my fellow professionals’ scepticism, so I knew this was not going to be an easy call. Whatever I did had to be absolutely watertight, but recognised it would be a good discipline to get the evidence together and then hone it into a sharply focussed 20-minute presentation.

    I consulted Tony Pinkus, the Faculty’s pharmacy dean, and we spent a day together working through what approach would work in the limited timeframe of the debate. We decided I should start with the principles, and reinforce these and their importance; then I would go on to discuss how homeopathic remedies are made. The very exciting work in water science, recently presented at a seminar in London, has made this much easier than it would have been 20 years ago. Then I would move on to the worldwide use of homeopathy, citing suitable published work to support the arguments.

    Unfortunately I did not win the day. Nevertheless, despite having to contend with the biased pre-event publicity and a less than impartial chair, I believe the information and arguments presented in favour of homeopathy were strong. As an exercise it was good for me to reaffirm my own knowledge and review the evidence. It made the spurious arguments made by so many “well informed” people, not to mention my opponent, look really ridiculous.

    The opportunity for the NHS to grasp homeopathy and use it to its advantage – not to mention to save money – is staring us in the face. It is not a question of homeopathy or western medicine; there is the opportunity to work with both systems to the advantage of the patient.

    A well constructed argument can change minds, but the audience has to listen to what is being said.

    I started the debate in Glasgow with the sentence: “A good scientist has an open mind.”

    Let’s try and open a few more.

    Christine Glover

    • He continued: “With an AMR (antimicrobial resistance) crisis looming ever closer and pharmacy margins diminishing by the year, I would have thought pharmacists would have jumped at the chance to widen their radius of demand rather than thumb their nose at the opportunity.”

      Very revealing! Clearly, the dean of the Faculty of Homeopathy assumes pharmacists do what they do solely for the money, without concern for patient care.

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