Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Dr Chris Freeman has written an open letter to all Australian pharmacy groups to ban the sales, promotion and recommendation of homeopathy.
Homeopathy, a system of alternative medicine pioneered in 1796 by Dr Samuel Hahnemann, has long been a pseudoscience that is presented as scientific.
The system operates under the belief that substances that cause illness in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people.
For example, one of Hanhemann’s early experiments saw him eat cinchona bark to investigate the results. He suffered from fever, shivering and joint pain – symptoms of malaria.
Hanhemann concluded that all effective drugs produce symptoms in healthy people similar to those of the diseases they treat. It’s hardly the worst theory in the world (that title goes to John Harvey Kellogg, who believed sugary foods encouraged people to masturbate), but it’s just plain wrong.
In any case, over 200 years of accumulated knowledge about biology, psychology, physics, chemistry and medicine have led to the unanimous discovery that homeopathy doesn’t work.
Major systematic reviews published in The Lancet, Springer and BMJ scientific journals have found that homeopathy is nothing short of complete nonsense. The World Health Organization recommends against using it, as does the US Food and Drug Administration. Just to be certain of how big a shame homeopathy is, there was even a systematic review of the systematic reviews published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
The jury isn’t out. It’s in. It’s been in for over 20 years. Homeopathy is a fraud. A sham. A huckster.
Despite this knowledge being widespread in the scientific and medical communities for the last several decades, pharmacies have continued to offer homeopathic remedies in their catalogues, specials, social media posts and brick-and-mortar stock.
I’d say the continued proliferation of homeopathic treatment has something to do with the fact it’s a US$3 billion industry in the United States alone.
Dr Freeman’s letter – which coordinates with PSA’s Choosing Wisely recommendations about the ineffectiveness of certain medicines – is an important step in the eventual blacklisting of homeopathy completely.
Dr Freeman reminds clinicians and consumers that homeopathy is not only useless in the treatment of illness and pain, but they also often lead to harm.
“Many consumers are not aware that there is no reliable evidence to support the use of homeopathic products to treat or prevent ailments,” he wrote.
“There may be a public perception that these products have health benefits, placing their health at risk if they choose homeopathic products and reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”
Even though reputable doctors don’t prescribe or recommend homeopathy to their patients, Freeman points out that the display of homeopathic products within pharmacies can be seen as a de facto endorsement of their viability.
Some pharmacies have already refused to stock homeopathic items, but for many, the money that homeopathy provides has proven to be too alluring. But by continuing to stock these products, such pharmaceutical groups are putting sales over customer safety.
“I congratulate the community pharmacists who have made the decision to remove these products from their shelves, or are planning to do so,” Freeman said in a statement on homeopathy back in 2015.
“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.”
Freeman insists that the removal of homeopathic products is an extension of the care that pharmacies are supposed to provide.
“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.”
It’s quite simple really: pharmacies shouldn’t be selling products that have no reputable evidence of having health benefits, no matter how much money it makes them.