I have featured the ‘Münster Circle‘ before. The reason why I do it again today is that we have just published a new Memorandum entitled HOMEOPATHY IN THE PHARMACY. Here is its summary which I translated into English:
Due to questionable regulations in German pharmaceutical law, homeopathic medicines can be given the status of a medicinal product without having to provide valid proof of efficacy. As medicinal products, these preparations may then only be dispensed to customers in pharmacies, which, however, creates an obligation to also supply them on request or prescription. Many pharmacies go far beyond this and advertise homeopathic medicines as a useful therapy option by advertising them prominently in the window. In addition, customers are recommended to use them, corresponding lecture events are supported, and much more. Often, homeopathic preparations are even produced according to pharmacies’ own formulations and marketed under their own name.
For pharmacists and pharmaceutical technical assistants (PTAs) to perform their important task in the proper supply of medicines to the population, they must have successfully completed a scientific study of pharmacy or state-regulated training. This is to ensure that customers are informed and properly advised about their medicines according to the current state of knowledge.
After successfully completing their training or studies, PTAs and pharmacists are undoubtedly able to recognize that homeopathic medicines cannot be effective beyond placebo. They do not have any significant content of active ingredients – if, for example, the high potencies that are considered to be particularly effective still have any active ingredients at all. Consequently, pharmacists and PTAs act against their better knowledge to the detriment of their customers if they create the impression through their actions that homeopathic medicines represent a sensible therapeutic option and customers are thereby encouraged to buy and use them.
Although homeopathics have no potential for direct harm in the absence of relevant amounts of pharmacologically active substances in the preparations, their distribution should nevertheless be viewed critically. The use of homeopathy can mean losing valuable time and delaying the start of effective therapy. It is often accompanied by criticism, even rejection of scientifically oriented medicine and public health, for example when homeopathy is presented as the antithesis to a threatening “pharmaceutical mafia”.
The Münster Circle appeals to pharmacists and PTAs to stop advertising homeopathic medicines as an effective therapeutic option, to stop producing and marketing them themselves, and to advise their customers that homeopathic preparations are not more effective than placebo. The professional organizations of pharmacists and other providers of further training are called upon to no longer offer courses on homeopathy – except for convincingly refuting the often abstruse claims of the supporters.
I have pointed out for at least 20 years now that pharmacists have an ethical duty toward their clients. And this duty does not involve misleading them and selling them useless homeopathic remedies. On the contrary, it involves advising them on the basis of the best existing evidence.
When I started writing and talking about this, pharmacists seemed quite interested (or perhaps just amused?). They invited me to give lectures, I published an entire series of articles in the PJ, etc. Of late, they seem to be fed up with hearing this message and the invitations have well and truly stopped.
They may be frustrated with my message – but not as frustrated as I am with their inertia. In my view, it is nothing short of a scandal that homeopathic remedies and similarly bogus treatments still feature in pharmacies across the globe.