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Are pharmacists thieves or therapists?

Loretta Marron OAM, CEO Friends of Medicine in Science writes:

Following the recent NHMRC paper exposing homeopathic remedies as placebos, a pharmacy industry poll overwhelmingly condemned selling them. This is not the only product with no proven health benefits sold by pharmacists. Why are these ‘trusted’ professionals exploiting their customers?

The early history of health care is dominated by aggressive interventions on desperately ill patients. Cruel and deadly practices included bloodletting, intestinal purging and blistering, sometimes followed by large doses of toxic mercury and arsenic. These barbaric interventions were useless and, more often than not, contributed to the patient’s death.

Now in our highly scientific 21st Century, alternative medicine is seeping into the heart of our communities via the front door, as ‘trusted’ pharmacists, encouraged to “capitalise on consumer sentiment”, are lured by greedy profit-making to embrace quackery.

Pills, patches, pads, potions and lotions line the crowded shelves as patients navigate the narrow alleys to the prescription counters. Claiming to remove fat from your tummy, wax from your ears,  pain from your knees or to suck toxins out through your feet, these nonsense products are useless profit-makers.

For babies, homeopathic products for teething pain and colic; for children vitamin lollies; and for students, special formulations for exam stress and to help them perform in “peak condition”. These sit side-by-side with bangles, bands, baubles, magnets and crystals, all claiming magical healing powers.

Tucked in the corner, you might find a clinic proclaiming the benefits of naturopathy. Iridology, Vega, Live Blood Analysis and other alternative pathology testing, falsely claim to test for allergies or nutritional deficiencies to convince you to spend more money. Staffed by smiling faces boasting ‘expertise’ in herbals, homeopathics and that elusive ‘wellness’  – no appointment necessary.

Pharmacies are frontline agents of primary care. Part of their role is to protect consumers from the fraudulent and unscientific. Pharmacists must be “personally and properly persuaded” of the safety and effectiveness of the goods in their shops. But with deals negotiated behind closed doors by the marketing departments of “Big Vitamin”, with no professional input, it remains a free-for-all.

There is a great deal of confusion about ‘alternative medicines’. Patients are seldom able to critically evaluate the conflicting and often unsubstantiated claims.  Selling medically useless products is liable to create even more confusion in patients’ minds. Can patients any longer trust pharmacists who sell them unproven rubbish?

Pharmacies can be owned by pharmacists only. They argue that they must offer these alternatives. Are they not ignoring science and putting their profits before their patients’ health? How can they possibly claim to be part of the health care team – together with the patient’s GPs and specialists – if they betray their trust by selling placebos – all for the sake of profit?

As more pharmacists speak out, why will they all not listen and stop this unethical charade?

 

 

Related Posts

Comments 5

  1. Calls by pharmacists to provide more of basic health care, such as doing vaccinations (which I suppport), surely would be taken more seriously if they actually fulfilled their role as health care professionals, instead of snake-oil salespeople.

    Please – let Supermarkets or the like sell all the non-proven “treatments”, and join the 21st Century of health care.

  2. Michael Young says:

    As a pharmacy operations type in the retail side of the industry part of my role was to advise pharmacist owners on range and margins in the “front of shop” essentially the retail area beyond the dispensary. I know for a fact homeopathic products in a typical pharmacy accounted for a minuscule number of lines ranged, sales and very little if any profit as they would often go out of date. They were demand driven meaning that customers in the local area wanted them ranged. I would defend pharmacists on this as they are looking after their locals.

    It was actually dumb business to increase the ranges, promote or push these types of products as effort elsewhere delivered way more bucks.

    Vitamins on the other hand are far more profitable but that’s another story!

  3. Kate Sommerville says:

    I think this is all a storm in a tea cup.

    It seems that pharmacists have to sell other products to maintain the viability of their businesses.

    I’m not equating pharmacies with petrol stations but I remember when the latter started selling food and grocery items as well as petrol. Service stations became retail outlets rather than places where you got your car fixed.

    I’m quite happy that pharmacy stores have gone into retail. They have a range of goods that can’t be purchased elsewhere in my neighbourhood.

    The discussion about the merits of homoeopathy is something else altogether. An informed customer would see a homoeopathic practitioner rather than buy products off the shelf. Customers have an obligation to take responsibility for their own purchases as well.

    I doubt that conventional medicine has anything to fear fro alternative medicine. In fact, I wish practitioners from both parts of the spectrum would work more closely together. Sometimes they do and when that happens, it’s great.

  4. smogdownunder says:

    I would have thought that the ‘poll’ you quoted (which I particpiated in) would have shown you that pharmacists in general are not supportive of homeopathy.
    A major problem is that constant squeezing of the sector by its majority client (Medicare) is encouraging the rise of the ‘big box’ chemists such as Chemist Warehouse. They are driven entirely by a ‘whatever it takes’ financial business model. Don’t look to them for ethical behaviour. Sadly, the fiscal environment means that the independent is going be increasingly pressured and there is little or no reward for behaving ethically.

  5. smogdownunder says:

    I might also say that the Blackmore’s ‘Coke and Fries’ deal was abandoned in no small part due to the horror expressed by pharmacists themselves in response to the deal brokered by the pharmacy owner’s Guild

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Summer reading 2020-2021
Tasmanian election 2021
Testing Croakey News category 1
The Croakey Archives
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2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013