Pharmacist at Wilkinson Chemist, Barnet, David Needleman said complementary medicine such as homeopathy, nutrition and aromatherapy could make smaller pharmacies “more viable and competitive”, as they look to “survive” the funding cuts across England.
In a letter sent to "all local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs)" – and seen by C+D – over the weekend, Mr Needleman said “we need to explore other ways of maintaining profitability. One of these is to enter profitable niche markets”.
"The difference between bankruptcy and survival"
Mr Needleman – who is also joint principal of The School of Complementary Medicine (TSOCM) – said he helped set up a homeopathic dispensary in a North London pharmacy while studying for his qualification in 1987.
“Within a year, the various homeopathic remedies, various other nutritional supplements and herbal medicines we stocked accounted for nearly 40% of the pharmacy’s turnover, with a considerably higher margin,” he told C+D this morning (June 14).
“This 40% turnover was the difference between bankruptcy and survival [of this pharmacy],” he added.
Mr Needleman and his colleague at TSOCM have designed a two-year “comprehensive complementary medicines” course for pharmacists and technicians, which will launch at the London School of Pharmacy in September.
“It is going to cover nutrition, homeopathy, herbal medicine, flower remedies, aromatherapy and Chinese medicines and will lead to a [certificate] for pharmacists to become registered with a professional body,” Mr Needleman said.
He said “it is early days” but “everyone I have spoken to has shown an interest” in the training. Mr Needleman is now looking to expand the offer to pharmacists across the country, “possibly Manchester next”.
Homeopathy under threat
Mr Needleman said he reacted with "sadness” to the news that some clinical commissioning groups (CCG) plan to scrap homeopathy funding.
“Homeopathy has been under a lot of threat and a lot of pressure for some considerable time,” he said.
"It is going to disenfranchise thousands of people who can't afford to pay," he claimed.
“When you think that between six and 10 million people a year use complementary medicines…it is rather a large chunk of business that pharmacies are missing out on.”
"There are only about six dedicated homeopathic pharmacies in the country, but there are a number of pharmacies that will dispense remedies and give advice," Mr Needleman said.
“Anything that can take us away from NHS dispensing has got to be useful for the survival of community pharmacy,” he added.
You can see a full copy of Mr Needleman’s letter here.
*In its 'quick guide' to homeopathy, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said it "does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment because there is no scientific basis for homeopathy nor any evidence to support the clinical efficacy of homeopathic products beyond a placebo effect".
Read C+D's feature on how pharmacists can decide which alternative treatments to stock – or whether to stock them at all – here.