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Homeopathy sold in Pharmacy. Your thoughts please.

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 24 ✭✭✭ Mordy


    A curious thing happened to my partner last week. She went in to a Pharmacy and asked for advice on what she should give our 18 month old son for a chesty cough. She was told that there was nothing except Sootha and that this was a homeopathic remedy. Now my partner was unaware of what homeopathy was but took that this was being recommended as something that would help relieve the symptoms and so accepted it.

    I’ve seen and heard, as you may have, the recent advertisements that have been advising us to go to our local pharmacists before we go to our Doctors. So we are being asked to trust our pharmacists with diagnosing and treating non life threatening illness like the common cold.

    So my questions are;

    Do you think that this is a breach of trust of the pharmacist to be recommending and/or selling non clinically proven remedies?

    And

    Should this practice be stopped?


    If you wish do discuss the relative merits or otherwise of homeopathy I would ask that you would read Dr David Colquhoun page (http://dcscience.net/improbable.html ). As if you feel that you have a argument in favour of the use of homeopathy I will probably end up quoting Dr Colquhoun so we might save ourselves a bit of time if you go direct to him.


«13

Comments



  • Was this an actual pharmacist recommending the homeopathic remedy or a member of staff in the pharmacy? If it's the former, then it certainly would be irresponsible to recommend something that hasn't been clinically proven to provide health benefits.




  • No I don’t believe it was the pharmacist.

    But could one contend that this is a moot point? If they are advertising themselves as a substitute (albeit in limited circumstances) for a GP then could you say that they must treat consults in a manner that reflects this?

    Maybe you say something like… all medical advice must be given by those qualified, or at least vetted by the pharmacist in charge. And I do believe that if ‘front of house’ are giving out such advice it is most likely to be at the behest of their employer.

    But wether or no, surely we can agree that the actions of the employees must remain the responsibility of their employer/pharmacist?




  • I'm only playing devil's advocate here, and I haven't seen the advertisements, but I imagine the ads are advising you to go to your local pharmacist specifically, rather than your local pharmacy. The staff working there aren't trained pharmacists, so they can't be expected to give advice other than "we have X available in the store, it's used to treat Y".

    The staff are just there to sell whatever's in the shop, whether it be cough medicine, aftershave, or a hairbrush. Basically anything in the store that you can just pick up yourself is your responsibility, but if it's behind the counter then the staff should be responsible. A staff member can recommend you use eye drops to treat your flaky skin, or tooth paste to treat your bad hair, but a pharmacist is responsible for recommending the stuff you can't just pick up yourself.

    I don't think there's anything that says the advert has to clarify this, but there's certainly nothing stopping whoever commissioned the ad from specifying "qualified pharmacist", but since you're going to a pharmacy, this is pretty redundant. I'll reserve judgement until I see the ad, anyway :p




  • Wow, that's bloody ridiculous.

    Dunno if you're interested, but it might be worth finding some reputable journalist who might be up for writing about this. I know that there have been examples of this in the UK, where homeopathic maleria vaccines were sold, but I wasn't thinking that it was a problem in Ireland too. Maybe I'm just naive.




  • Ok I understand that you are only playing devils advocate, and thanks for doing that.

    Your first point; if all they said was "we have X available in the store, it's used to treat Y" you might be able to let that slide particularly if is was an ‘alternative’ remedy purveyor but that is not the case. My partner specifically asked for something to treat a cough and was given the Sootha. And as I said before it is a question of breach of trust. They are asking us to trust them and then go about selling us non clinically proven remedies.

    Your second point; I would contend your position strongly, staff cannot recommend the use of eye drops to treat your flaky skin. This I believe would not only be morally wrong, and I am asking should we hold our pharmacies to a higher standard than ordinary shops, but also would be against consumer law.

    Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, anything you buy from a retailer must be:
    · as described, whether the description is part of the advertising or wrapping, on a label, or something said by the salesperson
    Source: http://www.consumerassociation.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3

    Clearly if they describe eye drops to treat your flaky skin it would fail the above. But this is not the core of what I’m asking I’m just replying to your point.

    I think the ad is on the radio, though I could not be sure.

    Finally I would like your personal response to the two questions.


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  • I'm in favour of banning all homeopathic remedies however there are many many placebos on sale in pharmacies and prescribed by GPs.




  • Mordy wrote: »
    Ok I understand that you are only playing devils advocate, and thanks for doing that.

    Your first point; if all they said was "we have X available in the store, it's used to treat Y" you might be able to let that slide particularly if is was an ‘alternative’ remedy purveyor but that is not the case. My partner specifically asked for something to treat a cough and was given the Sootha. And as I said before it is a question of breach of trust. They are asking us to trust them and then go about selling us non clinically proven remedies.

    Your second point; I would contend your position strongly, staff cannot recommend the use of eye drops to treat your flaky skin. This I believe would not only be morally wrong, and I am asking should we hold our pharmacies to a higher standard than ordinary shops, but also would be against consumer law.

    Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, anything you buy from a retailer must be:
    · as described, whether the description is part of the advertising or wrapping, on a label, or something said by the salesperson
    Source: http://www.consumerassociation.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3

    Clearly if they describe eye drops to treat your flaky skin it would fail the above. But this is not the core of what I’m asking I’m just replying to your point.

    I think the ad is on the radio, though I could not be sure.

    Finally I would like your personal response to the two questions.

    Based on what you told me, I would think you're probably right - it is irresponsible. I certainly wouldn't be happy if I asked a member of staff for something to treat my swolen knee and they gave me magic water with primrose oil and a pinch of good intentions.

    I doubt the staff member deliberately went out to deceive your partner, it's probably more the case that they genuinely believed that homeopathic voodoo works, but that could just be wishful thinking. Regardless, I think it's irresponsible, unless they specifically said "this hasn't been clinically proven".

    Now, whether there is a legal case there, is another story. I have very little knowledge of law so all I can offer is my opinion.

    I don't think it's a breach of trust so much as it is just irresponsible practice. Should it be stopped? Absolutely. If I ask for treatment of an illness, I want something that's clinically proven to work, or at the very least be advised that what is being sold to me has not been clinically proven.

    Sorry for the rambling, I have a habit of dragging out what I'm trying to say :p




  • TrollHammaren…
    If we didn’t ramble we would rarely be surprised at our destination… thanks for your comments.

    Dave!...
    That was my initial reaction too. I was steaming… still feel a bit like going up and tipping the bottle over their heads saying it’s a cure for idiocy.




  • mordy, i've edited your post again.

    do not name the establishment or give any clues/comments that may lead to them being identified/identifiable.


    if you edit it again to include any such information, i'll have no choice but to edit it out and ban you




  • sam34 wrote: »
    mordy, i've edited your post again.

    do not name the establishment or give any clues/comments that may lead to them being identified/identifiable.


    if you edit it again to include any such information, i'll have no choice but to edit it out and ban you

    I will comply though can I ask that you delete this comment out of the thread please, it is irrelevant for everyone but myself.


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  • Mordy you should send an email to Jennifer O'Connell at thejournal.ie

    [email protected]

    She's written about homeopathy before, and she doesn't appear to be a fan:

    http://jrnl.ie/81034
    http://journalist.ie/2010/02/homeopathy-theres-nothing-in-it/

    Would like to see a bit of fuss kicked up about this, who knows how extensive this crap is? Maybe there's people being given homeopathic malaria shots here too?




  • I'll try anything once. if it happens to work, great!




  • Mordy wrote: »
    I will comply though can I ask that you delete this comment out of the thread please, it is irrelevant for everyone but myself.

    no, i'll leave it there as it serves as a reminder to others who may be coming in intending to post "that happened me in <named pharmacy>"




  • Dave!
    That’s a good idea. I think I’ll do that. And I agree with you we need to kick up a fuss or it’ll get a foothold.

    Sam34
    “put the fork down”




  • It's worth noting what this product actually contains. While it is marketed as a homeopathic remedy, it differs from other remedies in that it contains more than just water/sugar pills. The formulation contains honey and lemon, ingredients that feature in non-homeopathic cough syrups. The demulcent and antiseptic activities of these ingredients can provide relief from the symptoms of the cough and sore throat. This is also the only common product for cough that is licensed for use in children over 12 months but less than 2 years of age.

    I'd be the first one to criticise homeopathy, but this is not your typical quack remedy. If the person buying it is advised that it is homeopathic and that its action is going to be due to honey and lemon, then I think they are capable of making an informed decision on whether to buy it or not. I think some of the posts here are a bit OTT.




  • You picked a very poor example here. The evidence for any cough bottle working is thin on the ground. Sootha at least does do what it sounds like it does ie it soothes the throat and might reduce a cough caused by irritation.

    Honey and lemon was mentioned earlier, it's a similar idea. You'd be amazed at the amount of people that told me sootha worked like a miracle cure on their kids.

    I have worked in many pharmacies that sell homeopathy and I always tell people I don't believe in it. Most still purchase it. But Sootha is a very poor example to post about.




  • The thing with children's cough medicines that are OTC are there are not many of them, except for Sootha or for Honey, Lemon and Glycerine that are usable under the age of two years old due to licensing issues in this country.

    If you want a "proper" cough remedy for your under two year old in Ireland you need to go to the doctor not the pharmacist and get a prescription.

    I've never used Sootha myself (well, for my children), but have used the latter and it relieves a small niggly cough but nothing more than that and have always needed to bring my two to he doctor for anything more.




  • Thanks for your replies folks very interesting…

    Penguin88
    I take your point about Sootha containing some ingredients that are found in other cough mixtures and that honey and lemon do have an affect. But may I say that we might be entering a discussion about the relative merits of homeopathic remedies. This is not my purpose for posting.

    Gpf101
    Again your point about Soothas other ingredients is taken. I didn’t choose this as an example this actually happened. And what struck me the most is that pharmacies are advertising as being a replacement for GPs (again I say under limited circumstances) and at the same time selling non clinically tested remedies. It is this that I want to get peoples thoughts on.

    January
    Again your point on honey and lemon is taken. However, you say “go to the doctor” but this is my point, the pharmacists are asking that we go to them for advice.

    Again thank you for your comments. I appreciate your time. I would like to redirect the question if I may, to move off Sootha and the particular incident and towards a discussion about pharmacies position in the provision of health service in Ireland. So may I try (as best I can) to rephrase the question to cover this?

    Pharmacies are bound by a code of practice in Ireland and in this code it states:

    Principle One. The practice by a pharmacist of his/her profession must be directed to maintaining and improving the health, wellbeing, care and safety of the patient. This is the primary principle and the following principles must be read in light of this principle”

    In order to fulfil his/her obligations under this principle a pharmacist should:

    Not purchase or supply any product, including a medicinal product, where there is reason to doubt its safety, efficacy or quality…” *1

    Do you think that the selling of homeopathic remedies is in breach of this or any other part of the code?



    *1 Source: http://www.thepsi.ie/Libraries/Publications/Code_of_Conduct_for_pharmacists.sflb.ashx




  • Mordy wrote: »
    Pharmacies are bound by a code of practice in Ireland and in this code it states:

    Principle One. The practice by a pharmacist of his/her profession must be directed to maintaining and improving the health, wellbeing, care and safety of the patient. This is the primary principle and the following principles must be read in light of this principle”
    In order to fulfil his/her obligations under this principle a pharmacist should:
    Not purchase or supply any product, including a medicinal product, where there is reason to doubt its safety, efficacy or quality…” *1
    Do you think that the selling of homeopathic remedies is in breach of this or any other part of the code?

    *1 Source: http://www.thepsi.ie/Libraries/Publications/Code_of_Conduct_for_pharmacists.sflb.ashx
    The problem, as I see it, is that you are taking pharmacists and pharmacies as one and the same, when they're not. You don't need to be a pharmacist to own a pharmacy, you just need to employ one

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  • 28064212 wrote: »
    The problem, as I see it, is that you are taking pharmacists and pharmacies as one and the same, when they're not. You don't need to be a pharmacist to own a pharmacy, you just need to employ one

    While I recognise there is a distinction between pharmacy and pharmacist, I do not believe that it has a material impact on the question I pose as the code of contact issues by the PSI are issued to both Pharmacies and Pharmacists equally.

    “All pharmacists and pharmacies are expected to comply with the guidance issued by the PSI.”
    Source: http://www.thepsi.ie/gns/pharmacy-practice/overview.aspx


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  • Mordy wrote: »
    Penguin88
    I take your point about Sootha containing some ingredients that are found in other cough mixtures and that honey and lemon do have an affect. But may I say that we might be entering a discussion about the relative merits of homeopathic remedies. This is not my purpose for posting.

    The purpose of my post was to point out that your and other poster's reasoning was flawed with respect to the example you used i.e. Sootha. This nothing to do with the relative merits of homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic remedies are sugar pills/water, Sootha is a cough syrup which contains a homeopathic ingredient, but also contains effective ingredients - completely different situations.

    To be honest, this dismissal of something out of hand because it has the word "homeopathy" on it without actually scrutinising the facts and evidence of the situation is as much at odds with the scientific method as people who believe in homeopathy without any proof.

    Also, the radio ads you've heard suggest to visit your pharmacist first, not that pharmacists are replacements for doctors. Part of the role of the pharmacist, much like GPs, is to refer patients to higher levels of the health service when their symptoms merit it. It's perfectly reasonable to suggest that a young child who's cough isn't relieved by the limited OTC options should be referred to a doctor.




  • I don't believe in homeopathy either and I'm a pharmacist. If someone comes in to me looking for a cough bottle for a child of that age I will tell them that the only one available is Sootha, which is a homeopathic remedy. It hasn't been proven to work but many parents find it to be very good. It is then up to the parent to decide whether or not they want to buy it. I've given them the relevant information and they can make their choice. 9 times out of 10 they buy the product as they would like to try something to try and relieve the cough. Nobody put a gun to your partners head and said take this and give it to your child or else... Clearly if you had been the one to visit the pharmacy you would have chosen not to purchase it as you have strong views on homeopathy however your partner chose to buy it. If she didnt know what homeopathic meant she could have asked. I really don't understand the level of vitriol in your post - all the information was given, and she made the decision to buy it




  • OP if your other half went in and said the child had a niggly cough and needed something to relieve it, she should have been asked if there were any other symptoms such as coughing up phlegm, how severe/regular was the cough etc. If following the questions it was made evident to the employee that the cough was minor and needed symptomatic relief the advice to take Sootha or a generic Glycerine, lemon and honey was fine. The pharmacist can only go on what he or she is told, just like the doctor. If following questioning the cough, as described, was not in need of the doctors visit then the pharmacist was fine in their advice. If your other half was not questioned to establish the severity of the cough then the pharmacist or employee then this is not up to standard. If you want to make a complaint contact the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, they are on the web.




  • Mordy wrote: »
    While I recognise there is a distinction between pharmacy and pharmacist, I do not believe that it has a material impact on the question I pose as the code of contact issues by the PSI are issued to both Pharmacies and Pharmacists equally.

    “All pharmacists and pharmacies are expected to comply with the guidance issued by the PSI.”
    Source: http://www.thepsi.ie/gns/pharmacy-practice/overview.aspx
    But it very much has a material impact. A sales assistant is not a pharmacist. If you went to a GP's office and the receptionist suggested an 'alternative' treatment when you were booking an appointment, would you listen to them or see the GP and ask their opinion?

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  • Penguin88
    Sorry Penguin88 it was not my intention to offend you. I was trying, in my ham handed way to say something along the lines of, Sootha is relevant to my initial post (and then to my refined question later) only that it demonstrates that Pharmacies are selling homeopathic remedies. Maybe I should have directed people to google the words Homeopathy Range pharmacy narrowing their results to Ireland, to show this same point. So sorry if I came across as dismissive. Can I ask, do you have any thoughts on my latest question?

    Angeldelight
    Do you think that selling homeopathy remedies is against the quoted PSI code of conduct? If not I would be very interested in why, as this is very close to the core of what I’m trying to understand. Thanks in advance.

    28064212
    Are you saying that a sales assistance working in a pharmacy is not governed by the PSI code of conduct? If this is a correct assessment of what you are saying could I have your reasons/evidence for saying this?

    As to your question, obviously if I went to a GPs office I would not take advice from the receptionist. But I think you are doing a disservice to GPs Receptionists I have always found them highly professional and would be surprised to find an example of a receptionists doing as you describe. But maybe a Receptionist/GP reading this might like to comment.




  • Mordy wrote: »
    Do you think that selling homeopathy remedies is against the quoted PSI code of conduct? If not I would be very interested in why, as this is very close to the core of what I’m trying to understand. Thanks in advance.
    IMO, a pharmacist recommending a homeopathic remedy would be against the code of conduct. I'm not aware of any examples of that happening
    Mordy wrote: »
    Are you saying that a sales assistance working in a pharmacy is not governed by the PSI code of conduct? If this is a correct assessment of what you are saying could I have your reasons/evidence for saying this?
    I don't believe they are. There are no qualifications needed whatsoever to become a sales assistant. It is a completely unskilled job. You might as well get a medical opinion from a Tesco checkout worker.
    Mordy wrote: »
    As to your question, obviously if I went to a GPs office I would not take advice from the receptionist. But I think you are doing a disservice to GPs Receptionists I have always found them highly professional and would be surprised to find an example of a receptionists doing as you describe. But maybe a Receptionist/GP reading this might like to comment.
    I'm sure most GP receptionists are highly professional. I didn't say anything about what a GP receptionist is likely to do. What I did say is that they are not bound by any GP code of conduct. If one of them did give advice, you would be foolish to take it

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  • 28064212 wrote: »
    IMO, a pharmacist recommending a homeopathic remedy would be against the code of conduct. I'm not aware of any examples of that happening


    I don't believe they are. There are no qualifications needed whatsoever to become a sales assistant. It is a completely unskilled job. You might as well get a medical opinion from a Tesco checkout worker.


    I'm sure most GP receptionists are highly professional. I didn't say anything about what a GP receptionist is likely to do. What I did say is that they are not bound by any GP code of conduct. If one of them did give advice, you would be foolish to take it

    I believe a GP receptionist is bound by patient confidentiality.

    I also believe that a pharmacy sales assistant is bound to certain restrictions such as the sale of Paracetamol. They need to be trained to a certain extent. The efficacy of treatments they may be advising customers to buy should be part of that training, if pharmacist and pharmacy owners want to adhere to their own code of conduct.

    I agree with the OP that it is a shame that health professionals are endorsing these products by selling them in pharmacies.
    I would like to see the PSI being proactive in this area.




  • 28064212 wrote: »
    I don't believe they are. There are no qualifications needed whatsoever to become a sales assistant. It is a completely unskilled job. You might as well get a medical opinion from a Tesco checkout worker....

    I strongly disagree with you that the sales assistance role is “completely unskilled” and I doubt they would take kindly to read their chosen career described as such.

    I also think that you are incorrect to say that they are not covered by the PSI. The reason for this belief is that they are mentioned specifically in documentation from the PSI. For example in Section 3 “Guidance for the Service and System Operations for Non-Prescription Controlled Medication” of the Pharmacy Practice Guidance Manual *1, page 28. It states;

    “All staff whose work regularly includes the supply of non-prescription medicines should receive training on this service and related procedures, including circumstances necessitating referral.”


    *1 http://www.thepsi.ie/Libraries/Publications/Pharmacy_Practice_Guidance_Manual.sflb.ashx




  • why isn't the specific pharmacy allowed to be named on the the thread?


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  • potential allegations of defamation, as well as the fact that our charter does not permit naming/recommending (and hence not recommending) people, practitioners or clinics


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