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'Homeopathy could be pharmacy's saviour from funding cuts'

Mr Needleman: "Having a homeopathy dispensary boosted one pharmacy's turnover"
Mr Needleman: "Having a homeopathy dispensary boosted one pharmacy's turnover"

Complementary medicine is a “large chunk of business that pharmacy is missing out on”, a community pharmacist has said.

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.

Training course

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.

Would you consider training to become a homeopath?

Brian Austen, Senior Management

'Homeopathy could be pharmacy's saviour from funding cuts'

The fact that C&D have published this shows their understanding of healthcare is limited.

Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Why don't we drag people into the consultation room for a consultation with the tooth fairy instead of an MUR? We could get a member of staff dressed up in a costume and wave a magic wand over people. And at certain times of year, get an old bloke to dress up as Father Christmas or Father Eid and tell them all their health-related wishes will come true by sitting on his knee for five minutes and telling him about everything you ever wanted.

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Why do you say these things, C+D?

Peter Blanchard, Senior Management

There are some problems with Needleman's scheme.

Firstly, the vast majority of homeopathic medicines in the UK are not registered. Only a handful are registered under the National Scheme (indications for self limiting conditions permitted) and tens under the Simplified Scheme (no indications permitted). Whilst registered homeopathic medicines are considered to be GSL, unregistered ones are considered unlicensed medicines.

IIRC, unlicensed medicines can not be prescribed by a pharmacist who is not qualified as an independent prescriber. Even then, there has to be sufficient justification for prescribing an unlicensed medicine when licensed products exist.

Section 10 (3) and (4) of the Medicines Act 1968 were not repealed by the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. Section 10 relates to exemptions in regulations for pharmacists to supply unlicensed medicines. However, these exemptions would seem only to apply to products compounded in that pharmacy or another branch of that pharmacy.

There are questions over the legality of supply to unlicensed medicines to retail pharmacies in the absence of a prescription from a doctor (or other suitably qualified practitioner).

Advertising of homeopathic services is problematic. Essentially, no claims of efficacy can be made and only conditions that are "treated" by homeopathic medicines registered under the National scheme can be mentioned.

It gets even more complicated...

SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

So our answer to the cuts is sell homeopathy, and it gets 24 responses, but the article on RPS "bigging up pharmacy" gets none !! We're doomed !!


Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well the RPS is irrelevant and the  RPSGB did more damage to the prospects of pharmacists than any other group in history. So I think it is shameful that it got two responses, it ought to have got none. 

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

how many people tried to sell the strep throat test ? how many did they manage to  sell.? Did they cover the cost of the pack of tests ? that was another C and D idea  to save pharmacy.

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

What are the costs of your course David ?  Although I think homeopathy is rubbish I did persuade someone many years ago  that ascorbic acid was a strong sleeping pill and should only be taken 1 at night as 2 could be disastrous. I told him not to tell his gp that I had sold him them . His gp was his best friend from pre war  days and I rang the gp up and suggested he tell the patient that I should not have sold him them as they were very powerful but if he had got them only to take one at night NO more. I knew the patient would ring the gp and as he got the reply how powerful they were he knew he was onto a winner. It worked for 2 years until he passed away. Another gp rang me with a problem patient that was taking too many sleeping pills. I suggested a blister pack so she would not forget she had already taken one . He rang me later to tell me that was a waste of time as she just took more of the night ones. I suggested ascorbic acid again on the basis that if she took the lot it was only equivalent to 1 orange. He explained to the patient how strong they were and again it worked for 6 months. The placebo effect is very strong . My inspiration for this deception arose because I noticed my father would take a sleeping pill and go off to sleep in 10 minutes before it could even  get into the blood stream. I could not try the same trick with him because he was already taking ascorbic acid and knew the taste. His prescribed sleeping pills were sweet rather than acidic but the same size. The beauty of homeopathy is that sugar pills cause no harm . I do not think that our profession should be promoting it but if the patient is taking excessive amounts of potentially harmfull drugs which are not really required I can see a case of substituting with a placebo. When someone visits a homeopath they pay for the time of the professional who asks a lot of questions and then produces some sugar pills and says how powerful they are and the patient believes them.







Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Did you sell driving test tablets? I sometimes felt guilty about them - we used Vit B because they look more like Diazepam.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

 Selling scientifically unproven services purely for financial gain? Well we've been flogging MURs for years...

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Haa, haa - you're stealing my idea! See my comment from earlier this week...

Pharma Tron , Community pharmacist


fatnose pansies, Sales

reminds me of this

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

I don't think there's been as many comments on a C&D article this quickly since the Teva article that lead to the Community Principles being updated....

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

Maybe we deserve a funding cut if this is the way the 'business' responds in a crisis. By selling scientifically unproven therapies.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Stay tuned. Tomorrow, clowns, jugglers  and tightrope walkers may also improve your well being.  

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Why not wind the clock all the way back to Victorian times: "Lemonade, marking ink, tobacco and bullets – sold as ‘sporting ammunition’ – are displayed, while some items are tucked behind the counter for security."(


John NotaPharmacist, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well. the last time it was looked at officially it was resoundingly trounced,

Has it magic'd up any convincing evidence since then?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

My pet leech might manage to have a new career as well....

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Does anyone know where people in the LPC buy their suits? They always look absolutely fantastic.

David Kent, Community pharmacist

A good proportion of them have other businesses, which are no doubt more profitable than pharmacy


Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Great. Let's do a proper return to the 17th century and bring back purging and bloodletting as well.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

It'd be more fun than doing MURs anyway.

Mr Realist, Community pharmacist

And less painful

Colin Hendry, Secondary Care Nurse

Tarrot card reading could be a money spinner

Adam Irvine, Community pharmacist

I bought a homeopathic cure for my gullibility...

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Did it work?

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Peddling services for cash that have almost no value to public health such as MURs is bad enough but endorsing and promoting snake oil such as homeopathy for financial gain is ethically totally unacceptable.

If Pharmacy feels it needs such nonsense to survive then any credibility we may aspire to in health care provision goes straight out of the window.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Fantastic! What about crystal balls and palm readings? Must be some money in this too?

David Kent, Community pharmacist

David, why are you suggesting this rubbish. The future of the profession, if it has one, is not in quack remedies with no scientific basis.



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