GPhC on homeopathy: Pharmacists must put patients first

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Community pharmacist Arun Bains: Pharmacy shouldn't promote "scientifically unproven therapies"

Pharmacy professionals must consider the safety of patients before offering homeopathy and other alternative medicines, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has reaffirmed.

Last week, C+D reported that pharmacist and homeopath David Needleman had suggested that complementary medicines could be an alternative revenue stream for pharmacies struggling with the funding cuts across England.

Pharmacy professionals took to Twitter to express their objections to Mr Needleman's comments (see below).

Responding to C+D's question on what its stance on complementary medicines is, the GPhC said its new standards for pharmacy professionals outline how pharmacists are expected to behave when it comes to alternative medicines, including homeopathy.

The regulator referred specifically to the first standard in its new guidance – which came into force on May 12 – which states pharmacy professionals must “give [patients] all relevant information in a way they can understand, so they can make informed decisions and choices”.

Pharmacy professionals must also “recognise their own values and beliefs, but not impose them on other people”, the GPhC states in the standards.

This includes decisions about which products to sell, the GPhC told C+D yesterday (June 20).

“Scientifically unproven therapies”

Commenting below C+D's article on Mr Needleman's comments, community pharmacist Arun Bains said: “Maybe we deserve a funding cut if this is the way the ‘business’ responds in a crisis, by selling scientifically unproven therapies.”

Community pharmacist Clive Hodgson agreed, stating that complementary medicines “have almost no value to public health”.

“Endorsing and promoting snake oil, such as homeopathy, for financial gain is ethically totally unacceptable,” he added.

Regulatory analyst Peter Blanchard claimed “the vast majority of homeopathic medicines in the UK are not registered”, which makes advertising such services “problematic”.

Community pharmacist Michael Franks said while he believes “homeopathy is rubbish” and he does not think pharmacists should be promoting complementary medicines, “if a patient is taking excessive amounts of potentially harmful drugs which are not really required, I can see the case of substituting [them] with a placebo”.

The Twitter reaction
8 Comments
Question: 
Do you stock alternative medicines in your pharmacy?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Typically wishy washy response from Duncan and the crew at GPhC Towers...

Name Surname, Sales

Agree! If you can't impose your beliefs on others, but you don't believe that homeopathy works, do you still have to offer it for sale to avoid doing that?

Duncan Livingstone, Industrial pharmacist

By homeopathic principles, not supplying a homeopathic medicine means you've given an overdose dunnit?

Name Surname, Sales

According to homeopathic principles, the less evidence there is that it works, the stronger the proof.

Roy Sinclair, Community pharmacist

If I were a homeopathic Pharmacist, I would be delighted to recognise that as my reputation as a health care professional became weaker and weaker and weaker, I would of course be getting more and more potent. When  my pharmay closed and there was no longer any trace of me on the High Street, I would be more powerful than anyone could ever have imagined. 

I am not however a homeopathic pharmacist.

Bal Singh, Locum pharmacist

"Pharmacists must put patients first"

The current government and their health secretary clearly do not.....

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

What do you call alternative medicine that works?  Medicine.

David Kent, Community pharmacist

Placebo effect

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