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The Scientist: Speak out on homeopathy

"There's an opportunity for the RPS to be firmer and clearer – and declare that homeopathic products are not appropriate to sell"

You can help make sure the RPS gives out the right advice on these products, says The Scientist

As a non-pharmacist, I've been watching the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) homeopathy consultation with interest. I've made my views on the subject clear enough in the past, along with other C+D bloggers. The RPS position is also pretty clear:

"The RPS currently recommends that any pharmacists selling homeopathic products ensure they are competent to do so, including being able to discuss with patients the lack of evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathic products.

“The RPS believes that pharmacists should ensure, wherever possible, that patients do not stop taking their prescribed medicines when choosing to take a homeopathic product. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment."

There's been an interesting spectrum of reactions on social media. A few people seem incredulous that a consultation even exists, declaring that it's an open and shut case and nothing need be done. The argument is that the science is clear, so why bother with a consultation? Science isn't a matter of opinion; it's the best interpretation of the currently available evidence. So why consult on it?

But to me, that misses the point. The consultation isn't about whether homeopathy is a valid form of treatment or whether the evidence supports it. It's about what stance the professional body should take on its use, and how it should be advising and supporting its members. That necessarily means the members need a say in the matter.

The current RPS position seems like a sensible one, but it doesn't go far enough for me. There's an opportunity here for it to be firmer and clearer – as a professional body, the RPS is in a good position to declare that homeopathic products are not appropriate for pharmacists to sell or for pharmacies to stock.

But, in the end, what I think doesn't matter – this is an RPS consultation. It might not be the biggest or most urgent issue facing the world of pharmacy, but I'd still encourage RPS members to take part in the survey and help shape future policy on homeopathy.

The Scientist is a medicines information scientist working in the north of England

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