Registrar’s Message: Homeopathic Products in Pharmacies
Earlier this year, there was a bit of a buzz on Twitter regarding pharmacies that sell homeopathic products. An Ontario health researcher caused quite a stir, criticizing a pharmacist for recommending a homeopathic product to treat her child’s fever.
My mum went to Shoppers Drug Mart today to pick up some Tylenol because my 4yo has a fever. The PHARMACIST recommended a homeopathic “medicine” made by Boiron. Thankfully she didn’t waste her money on it, but seriously...the pharmacist actually said “this stuff works really well” https://t.co/u5xjccQgK1
— Tara Gomes (@Tara_Gomes) January 12, 2019
Many of the responses she received were similarly critical of either homeopathic products or of pharmacies who stocked the products alongside other over-the-counter drugs.
I recall hearing about a case many years ago in which a child was admitted to the hospital with a severe iron deficiency, after being administered a homeopathic iron supplement. And in another case, a 19-month-old child died from viral meningitis when his parents made the decision to forego conventional medical treatment.
More recently, a naturopathic physician was being investigated for using a homeopathic remedy comprised of rabid dog saliva, to treat a four year old child’s aggressive behaviour. In the course of the investigation by the Inquiry Committee of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia (CNPBC), the physician advised that she felt that complying with the College’s Bylaws and Policies (and in particular the College’s Immunization Standard), would compromise her practice.
CNPBC’s Immunization Standard states that naturopathic physicians are prohibited from providing patients with “anti-vaccination” and “anti-immunization” materials. The Standard also prohibits naturopathic physicians from offering Complete Elimination of Autism Spectrum Disorder (CEASE) therapy.
She acknowledged that her approach to practice does not align with the College’s regulation of the profession and, as such, voluntarily surrendered her licence, and stated her intent to continue to act as a homeopath. As part of this acknowledgement, she also provided an undertaking to not apply for reinstatement, or otherwise seek registration with that College for a period of five years.
Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a philosophy and practice based on the theory that the body has the ability to heal itself. It is based on the idea that “like cures like,” which means that if a particular substance causes a symptom in a health person, giving the person a very small amount of that substance, typically in the form of a water dilution, may cure the illness.
For years however, the legitimacy of homeopathy as an effective therapy has been a subject of great controversy, based on a general lack of scientific evidence for homeopathic concepts. Critics believe that homeopathic products and therapies hold no medicinal value and thus should not be sold in pharmacies or alongside pharmaceutical products, putting pressure on Canada’s Colleges of Pharmacy to prohibit the sale of homeopathic products in pharmacy settings.
Their concerns are either about the lack of therapeutic effect of the homeopathic product, or that the use of the homeopathic product means that the evidence based pharmaceutical is not used and the patient suffers the consequence of their disease or ailment going untreated.
However, others make the argument that it is better for the public to buy these products in an informed environment, where patients are provided with choice and can receive professional advice from a pharmacist, rather than someone with less formal education. Furthermore, if they do not cause any harm, shouldn’t the public be able to explore homeopathy and other supplementary therapies as long as they continue to take their prescribed medications?
I’m interested in your thoughts: should pharmacies sell homeopathic products? And why?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.