Friends of Science in Medicine’s Ian Carr has welcomed King Review recommendations on homeopathy

The interim report of the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation states that “there are unacceptable risks where community pharmacies are allowed to sell homeopathic products”.

One of the options presented states that these products should not be sold in PBS-approved pharmacies.

“This requirement should be referenced and enforced through relevant policies, standards and guidelines issued by professional pharmacy bodies,” it says.

In 2015 PSA said it did not support the sale of homeopathy in pharmacy.

“Our position is that pharmacists must use their professional judgement to prevent the supply of products with evidence of no effect,” PSA president Joe Demarte said at the time.

Ian Carr, of Saxby’s Pharmacy in Taree, NSW, and Friends of Science in Medicine member, told the AJP that “in terms of homeopathic products being recommended not to be sold by PBS-approved pharmacies, I one hundred per cent heartily agree with that finding.

“I love saying that I believe homeopathy works. But it has never been shown to work better than placebo. There are many things that will work as well as placebo, but it’s not ethical to be selling them as a cure or treatment for something.

“I would have a bit more time for it if there was a plausible theory behind it, but its basis is entirely implausible – it pushes all the buttons for being a pseudoscience, so I agree it has no place in Australian pharmacy.

“However, I am at a bit of a loss to understand why they haven’t carried some of that logic over into the comments on complementary medicines generally.”

The interim report says complementary medicines pose a risk to consumers when they are not clearly separated from S2 and S3 drugs.

It suggests that the two product segments should be clearly separated, either by ensuring all S2 and S3 medicines be only available from behind the counter; or by requiring that complementary medicines are not displayed behind the counter.

In terms of regulation, the interim reports states that “there are gaps in the compliance monitoring of the quality use of complementary medicines”.

It notes that the government’s September 2016 response to the Expert Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation “presents a strategic and systems-based approach to improving access to therapeutic goods for Australian consumers whilst maintaining the safety of these goods in Australia”.

“This includes planned improvements to enhance consumer protection and increased compliance powers to monitor the supply and use of these products in line with their risk profile – in particular, where:

  • consumer protection will be enhanced through the development of a more comprehensive system of post-market monitoring, which will provide the TGA with better information about emerging safety issues. This will ensure that therapeutic goods in Australia continue to be safe for use, efficacious and of good quality;
  • the regulation of complementary medicines will be reformed to provide new pathways where evidence of efficacy will be reviewed by the TGA prior to market and compliance powers being strengthened, whilst recognising the low-risk nature of complementary medicines.”

The Panel supports this plan, it says.

Mr Carr told the AJP that this does not go far enough.

“If one conceives of complementary medicines as being vitamins and minerals, that’s one thing. But the marketing of those items has become so diffuse and so wide that on most of these CM shelves we have traditional medicines, we’ve got herbal medicines, we’ve got items that are basically just marketing formulas for certain conditions.

“The evidence behind most of these things is very very slim, and we still have the possibility of health fraudsters just marching in and taking advantage of the lack of regulation in the industry.”

Mr Carr has set up an email address (pharmacy.CAM.leaks@gmail.com) where pharmacy workers may share their stories about how CMs are being managed.