Pharmacists vote no on naturopathy

spoonful of vitamins

The AJP’s latest poll clearly shows that our readers have their suspicions about the validity of naturopathic medicines, with a whopping 544 voters choosing the option, “No, there’s no evidence they work” at the time of writing.

This constitutes 65% of readers who took part in the poll.

A significant minority – 193 readers, with 23% of the vote – said that pharmacies should stock these medicines as they are legitimate products.

Five per cent said that while they questioned their efficacy, pharmacy should stock them; and 3% said they were unsure, but the public wanted them.

Three per cent voted, “Other,” including Jarrod McMaugh, who commented, “I voted ‘other’—No: there’s evidence that they don’t work.

“The first thing I did when I purchased my new pharmacy was to remove all homeopathic products from the shelf,” he said. “There’s no place for them.”

The Tim Minchin joke: “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine,” was again invoked.

Some readers questioned the way the poll was structured, highlighting that there is a difference between some CMs which have evidence to support their use, and other naturopathic “medicine” such as homeopathy.

“Homeopathic medicines should not be stocked,” said reader Tim Bangsund.

“Natural medicines with supporting evidence should be stocked and sold only if the pharmacists selling them are comfortable with their knowledge in order to provide proper counselling and patient care.”

Taree pharmacist and member of Friends in Science and Medicine Ian Carr, who has spoken to the AJP several times in the last couple of weeks as debate has continued about the subject of naturopathy in pharmacy, said he was surprised and pleased at the strength of the No vote.

“I looked at [the poll] on the first day, and there was definitely a majority saying these things have no evidence, but there was still above 30% saying yes, they were legitimate products,” Carr told the AJP.

“That’s been dwarfed by a lot of people who’ve looked in, and it’s interesting to have that many people vote.

“I’m glad that it seems to be becoming recognised that there’s a need for the evidence base in these things, and the difference between having a naturopathic product or supplement on the shelf, and having somebody there charging for their time, as a naturopath, dispensing advice without knowing the patient’s background and without an intervention by a registered pharmacist.”

He encouraged pharmacists concerned about the validity of naturopathy to consider what products and services they offer.

Where naturopaths are used, they should at least be expected to keep a record of products and advice dispensed, he says, similar to protocols around blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring.

“If there’s going to be an insistence that naturopaths remain, that’s the way I’d like to see it: that the pharmacy has good records and oversight of what they’re doing.

“I think, given our connection to the PBS and the fact that we as pharmacists are looking for a more serious role as part of the health care team generally, and having a more active and integrative role, we would be silly to fritter it away on peripheries like naturopathy.

“I personally see the opportunities in evidence-based medicine and what flows from that, rather than trying to make up dollars. We’re more likely to lose control of pharmacy if we don’t guard it jealousy.”

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