Pharmacies told to get rid of homeopathy


homoeopathy pills and blue bottle

The PSA has asked community pharmacy banner and buying groups not to stock or promote homeopathic products

These pharmacy groups should “draw a line in the sand and cease all activities that encourage the stocking, promotion, recommendation or marketing of homeopathy”, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) says.

PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman has published an open letter and written to major banner and buying groups, stating that many people are not aware that there is no reliable evidence for the use of homeopathic products.

“Public health is put at risk if people choose homeopathy over treatments that evidence shows are safe and effective,” he says.

PSA provided advice to pharmacists in its Choosing Wisely recommendations last month. One of the six recommendations is: “Do not promote or provide homeopathic products as there is no reliable evidence of efficacy. Where patients choose to access homeopathic treatments, health professionals should discuss the lack of benefit with patients.”

“Where there are homeopathic products available from community pharmacies, patients may see this as a de-facto endorsement,” Dr Freeman says.

The supply of homeopathic products is in contravention of the PSA Code of Ethics for Pharmacists. The Code of Ethics, recognised by the Pharmacy Board of Australia, states that pharmacists should only “supply or promote any medicine, complementary medicine, herbal remedy or other healthcare product where there is credible evidence of efficacy and the benefit of use outweighs the risk.”

“The PSA Code of Ethics makes it clear that homeopathic products should not be stocked or sold in community pharmacies. Banner and buying groups should do everything in their power to remove these products from their shelves,” Dr Freeman says.

“I congratulate the community pharmacists who have made the decision to remove these products from their shelves, or are planning to do so.

“We need to lead by example so patients continue to see community pharmacy as a health destination that provides the best possible evidence-based care.

“I look forward to community pharmacy groups committing to ensure patients receive robust health advice and are not misled into believing homeopathic products have any evidence of benefit.”

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8 Comments

  1. Long overdue! You can’t expect to be taken seriously now & in the future, in an increasing variety of health settings, as an expert on evidence-based therapeutics and medication safety, whilst flogging off homeopathic “jungle juice” in the pharmacy setting!

  2. Andrew
    18/01/2019

    Kos said as much in his Press Club speech a decade ago, evidence permitting. But….*rubbing index and middle finger against thumb*

  3. Christie Younger
    18/01/2019

    @luis trapaga Uhhhh.. that reference that you just quoted isn’t even from the BMJ. “BMJ 2012;345:e6184” is an article in the BMJ called “Good Medicine: Homeopathy” which talks about how homeopathy has no unbiased scientific evidence to show it works and discusses what the placebo effect is.

    That massive wall of text that you quoted was from a website that has absolutely no relation to the BMJ. It claims to be a medical journal and yet there are no peer reviewed articles, no double-blind randomised studies, nothing bruh. Not even an impact factor.

    The evidence included in the actual article is super dodgy. There’s no addendum which includes their evidence, or where they got their evidence. They don’t investigate at all any confounding factors that may impact their data (nor is there any discussion on these factors).

    They’ve got graphs but no numerical data tables accompanying it that include all the data.

    There’s just… no data…

    Additionally, it doesn’t look like this has been replicated at all (even though it was done about 8 years ago so plenty of time to do things like phase I, II, III and IV trials but nah, that stuff doesn’t seem to exist)

    These guys pretty much say stuff without backing it up with hard evidence.

    It’s really, really, really bad ‘science’

    • Yes, a Google search will reveal that the Cuban experiment has been critiqued and found wanting in various commentaries, mainly on methodological grounds.

      Also, far from Australia being some sort of international pariah in disallowing claims on Health Funds for homeopathic use, the British NHS has stopped funding homeopathics,Germany is openly considering adopting such a move, and the Swiss stopped funding homeopathy for some years, and reinstated it on a 5-years trial basis in 2012, pending a scientific review.

      Also, I’ve always wondered about the inconsistency in the “memory” of water theory. That is to say that if water has a “memory”, it must be very selective.
      Otherwise, why would water retain a memory of a designated chemical and at the same time, through various dilutions “forget” the memory of the various trace elements present in water, such as copper, Iron, Selenium, Chromium and Zinc?
      The most recent summary of the scientific deficiencies of the prevailing justification for those advocating homeopathy (well worth a read), was an excellent article in The Conversation in August 2011-( August 5, 2011). “Doctors’ orders: debunking homeopathy once and for all”.
      At: https://theconversation.com/doctors-orders-debunking-homeopathy-once-and-for-all-1393.

    • One final comment on the homeopathic discussion:
      I see two major issues of concern:
      1.The record of deaths due to lack of required medical care ASAP, when required(see I.Freckelton J Law&Med 2015;237),
      2.If it is claimed that the successively diluting the water in the preparation of a homeopathic product increases the potency, then logically the potency of heavy metal potent contaminants in water must also increase. So does that make heavy metal contaminants potentially toxic in the final diluted homeopathic product? If not, why not? Are they saying that the “memory” of water is somehow selective? Because you can’t have it both ways-So, please explain!

  4. Gavin Mingay
    18/01/2019

    Do we remove most cough medicines from our shelves as well?

  5. luis trapaga
    21/01/2019

    Chris Freeman’s argues that “The supply of homeopathic products is in contravention of the PSA Code of Ethics for Pharmacists”. He quotes from the Pharmacy Board of Australia’s Code of Ethics “that pharmacists should only “supply or promote any medicine, complementary medicine, herbal remedy or other healthcare product where there is credible evidence of efficacy and the benefit of use outweighs the risk.” However, this argument is not itself based on credible evidence.

    The government of Cuba trialled a national program of homeopathic vaccination against Leptospirosis. I will take a somewhat lengthy quote from the British Medical Journal to illustrate my point (BMJ 2012;345:e6184) :
    “The authors of the Cuban homeopathic leptospirosis trial were not homeopaths. They were veteran conventional medical researchers and scientists who had been manufacturing, testing and implementing the use of conventional vaccinations for decades. They were highly respected in the vaccine world. Their work had previously been published in many of the major vaccine journals such as, Vaccine, Human Vaccines, Expert Review of Vaccines, etc. They were and are in fact, amongst the world’s leading experts on leptospirosis vaccination – with the trivalent Vax-spiral (the only conventional leptospirosis vaccine made anywhere in the world) designed and manufactured in their own facilities (the Finlay Institute – a WHO-designated research center). In sum, they were not homeopathic apologists. Prior to the leptospirosis study, they had no ‘skin in the game’ whatsoever, and no reason at all to defend or advocate for homeopathy.

    The authors implemented the use of the homeopathic leptospirosis prophylaxis as a last ditch effort in 2007, when the island was overwhelmed by a record hurricane season and there were insufficient resources/time to produce enough of the conventional vaccine. They tried homeopathy in light of having no other options.

    Unlike the conventional vaccine, the homeopathic product could be produced in less than 2 weeks (compared to 6 months), cost 2% of the conventional vaccine, and was far more easily stored and administered.

    The results of using the homeopathic product in 2007 were far more successful than any previous use of the conventional vaccine, despite what was objectively one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons in modern history. Within 2 weeks of administering the homeopathic product, they observed a 90% decrease in incidence of leptospirosis in the intervention region (comprising 2.1 million persons), while in the low-risk areas which did not receive any intervention (either homeopathic or conventional) incidence of the disease continued to rise – a set of facts that would have been drastically reversed if the homeopathic product had no efficacy.” It would be jejune to ignore such evidence, given the size of the sample group. Also the fact that since this intervention Cuba has literally eradicated Leptospirosis.

    Australia is currently in an embarassing position viz a viz our government’s attempt to eradicate homeopathy. The authors of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s paper on homeopathy are currently before the senate, trying to explain why they spent a million dollars of tax payer’s money fabricating their report. They are facing serious charges of malfeasance.
    There is plentiful empirical and research based evidence for homeopathy. They ignored it. Homeopathy has widespread international and official use, for example, it is used in hospitals in various countries, as it once was here, in both Sydney and Melbourne.

    The challenge to homeopathy is idealogical, because the diltution factor seems to contradict common sense. However, the work on hormesis by E.J. Calabrese and others supports therapeutic activity of low dilutions, that dose response is curved, rather than linear. Before Chris Freeman, or anyone else for that matter, can state that there is no credible evidence for homeopathy, they should perhaps acquaint themselves with some.

    Regarding the idea that pharmacy only endorse medicines where “the benefit of use outweighs the risk”, I would point out that according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in contrast to deaths occurring from illicit drug use, “prescription drugs actually cause the highest numbers of drug induced deaths…” (www.abs.gov.au/3303.0-2016).

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