Banner group pulls naturopath advice articles

Promotion of naturopathy by a leading pharmacy banner group could damage the profession, stakeholders claim

Banner group Amcal appears to have removed a series of articles from its website which listed naturopath advice above advice from a pharmacist, after Friends of Science in Medicine and the PSA contacted its parent company, Sigma.

Last week paediatrician Dr John McLennan from FSM wrote to Sigma CEO Mark Hooper expressing concern about the articles, some of which promoted unproven treatments such as homeopathy.

An article on children’s pain featured 20 lines of advice from a naturopath. While some of these recommendations, such as avoiding aspirin, are evidence-based advice, the article also included the line, “A safe alternative to drug-based pain relieving medication for children is homeopathic medicine. Some children respond very favourably to homeopathics”.

This was followed by nine lines of “pharmacist advice,” which included a recommendation for a vitamin or mineral supplement if the dietary intake was inadequate.

PSA CEO Dr Lance Emerson also wrote to Hooper, pointing out PSA’s position.

In a communication with Friends of Science in Medicine, Dr Emerson said PSA was “concerned with the lack of evidence supporting some of the recommendations contained in the article’s content, particularly the section on naturopathy, where consumers are advised to consider homeopathic remedies for very young babies”.

“We have pointed out that pharmacists, as medicines and medication management experts, have a fundamental role in ensuring consumers have access to safe and effective medicines,” Dr Emerson wrote to Friends of Science in Medicine.

“We have stated that as the peak body for pharmacists in Australia, PSA is very concerned to see on a pharmacy group website, information that ignores current evidence, particularly when described under the tagline of ‘expert advice’.

“PSA’s position is that ‘pharmacists must use their professional judgement to prevent the supply of products with no reliable evidence or evidence of no effect.’

“We are therefore concerned that the pharmacists who are part of the Amcal group could be seen to be endorsing the advice published on their website.

“We have strongly suggested Amcal remove this information from their website. Mr Hooper has emailed me saying he will action through this operations team.”

Dr Emerson later told the AJP that the promotion of naturopathy could harm the pharmacy profession.

“These non-evidence based services in community pharmacies not only open us up for criticism by fellow health practitioners, but consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what works and what doesn’t,” he says.

“When there are financially sustainable and evidence-based health service pharmacy models available that have proven to work (such as the Health Destination Pharmacy program), I don’t believe there is a place for these non-evidence based services now or in the future.”

On May 30, the articles were accessible from the Amcal website. Today, May 31, they became inaccessible and a search on the site for both “naturopathy” and “homeopathy” returned a nil result.

The AJP has reached out to Sigma for comment.

Meanwhile, a communication on Thursday, 26 May to Friends of Science in Medicine members highlighted the AJP’s poll on whether naturopathy was appropriate in pharmacy, with the suggestion, “You might like to vote”.

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