When will pharmacists stop selling bogus medicines?

Occasionally, pharmacists invite me to give a lecture about alternative medicine. The aspect I am always keen to debate with them is the issue of retail pharmacists selling medicines which are unproven or even disproven. The last time I was invited, I asked them how many might, when working as retail pharmacists, sell products such as flower remedies, homeopathic medicines, detox therapies, aromatherapy oils, etc. About half of them had the courage to admit that they would do this. I fear, however, that in reality this figure is probably closer to 100 per cent.

The question why pharmacists might offer unproven or disproven medicines to their customers has puzzled me for many years. It is intriguing not least because the ethical codes of pharmacists across the world quite clearly prohibit such activity. So, what are the possible motivations for pharmacists to sell bogus medicines?

One possible reason would be that they are convinced of their efficacy. However, talking to pharmacists, I do not get the impression that many of them believe in homeopathy or other bogus therapies. During their training, they are taught the scientific facts which clearly do not support the notion of efficacy.

If some pharmacists are nevertheless convinced otherwise, they are obviously not well informed and would thus find themselves in conflict with their moral, ethical and legal duty to practice according to the current best evidence. On reflection, therefore, strong positive belief is probably not a prominent reason for pharmacists to sell bogus medicines.

Another common argument is the notion that, because patients want to buy alternative medicines, pharmacists must offer them. When considering it, the tension between the ethical duties of a healthcare professional and the commercial pressures of a shopkeeper becomes painfully obvious.

For a shopkeeper, it is perfectly all right to offer all products that customers want. For a heathcare professional, however, this is not necessarily the case. The ethical codes of pharmacists make it perfectly clear that the sale of unproven or disproven products masquerading as medicines is not ethical. Therefore, the above notion may well be what pharmacists feel, but it is nevertheless not a valid reason for selling bogus medicines. Ethical imperatives must always override commercial self-interest.

Another argument holds that, if patients were unable to buy alternative medicines such as homeopathic remedies to treat self-limiting conditions which do not really require treatment at all, they would only find ways of obtaining more harmful and costlier prescription drugs. The notion here is that it might be better to sell harmless, cheap placebos in order to avoid the side effects of real but non-indicated medicines.

It looks plausible at first sight. At closer scrutiny, however, this argument does not hold water: if no (drug) treatment is indicated, responsible healthcare professionals have a duty to explain this fact to their patients. In medicine, a smaller evil cannot easily be justified by avoiding a bigger one; on the contrary, we should always thrive for the optimal course of action — and if this means reassuring patients that no medical treatment is needed, so be it.

An all too obvious reason for pharmacists to sell bogus medicines is, of course, the undeniable fact that they earn money by doing so. There clearly is a conflict of interest here, whether pharmacists want to admit it or not. And mostly they do try to deny that such a conflict exists, or they play down this reason for their decision to sell bogus medicines.

Pharmacists working in large chain pharmacies like Boots often claim that they have no influence whatsoever over the range of products on sale in their pharmacy. This perception might well be true. But equally true is the fact that no healthcare professional can be forced to do things which violate their code of ethics. If institutions like Boots insist on selling bogus medicines, it is up to individual pharmacists and their professional organisations to change this situation. They need to protest against such unethical malpractice and eventually refuse to comply. In my view, this argument is therefore far from convincing and certainly does not provide an excuse that can be used in the long term.

Yet another potential reason for selling bogus medicines in pharmacies seems a little more far-fetched. Some pharmacists claim they feel that stocking such products provides them with an opportunity for talking to patients and informing them about the evidence related to the remedy they were about to buy. This might dissuade them from purchasing it and could persuade them to buy something that is effective instead. In this case, the pharmacist would merely offer the bogus medicine in order to advise customers against using it. This strategy might well be an ethical way out of the dilemma; however, I doubt that it is common practice with many pharmacists today.

Nonetheless, we should keep in mind, of course, that there are many shades of grey between the black and the white of the two extreme attitudes towards bogus medicines. There is clearly a difference whether pharmacists actively encourage their customers to buy bogus treatments, or whether they merely stock such products and, where possible, offer responsible, evidence-based advice to people who are tempted to buy them.

In the end, it is up to the pharmacists’ professional organisations to provide guidance to their members in this complex and often difficult situation. The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, for instance, does not support the sale of bogus medicines in pharmacies: ‘Our position is that pharmacists must use their professional judgement to prevent the supply of products with evidence of no effect.’

This surely is good news for all who stand up for evidence-based medicine and for the best interests of patients. It came only a few months after the Chief Scientist of the UK Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Professor Jayne Lawrence, outlined a similar vision: ‘The public have a right to expect pharmacists and other health professionals to be open and honest about the effectiveness and limitations of treatments. Surely it is now the time for pharmacists to cast homeopathy from the shelves and focus on scientifically based treatments backed by clear clinical evidence.’

These are clear and courageous words indeed. Let’s hope they are now followed by decisive action.

Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, is the author of A Scientist in Wonderland and the awardee of the John Maddox Prize 2015 for standing up for science. He blogs at edzardernst.com.

  • Nick Jenkins

    When will conventional medicine and prescription drugs stop being the 3rd leading cause of death in the US?

    • “When will conventional medicine and prescription drugs stop being the 3rd leading cause of death in the US? ”

      Are they?

      • Nick Jenkins

        They are

        • [Citation required]

          • Nick Jenkins

            Show me the citation that they are safe.

          • LOL! I have made no claim they were! You made a claim so the onus is on you to substantiate it. If you are unable to, please just say so.

          • Nick Jenkins

            LOL and the citation was provided….. Now that I provided what you asked for show me the proof that quack conventional medicine is safe and effective. Yea didn’t think so.

          • Nick Jenkins

            I can already tell by your comments you are a pro conventional shill/troll so please stop commenting on my posts. I will not play your game.

          • Are you psychic as well?

          • Nick Jenkins

            Alan this isn’t for you but others who come here can see what the truth really looks like. Put it in your pipe and smoke it 😉 http://www.webdc.com/pdfs/deathbymedicine.pdf

          • You seem to not understand the nature of comments under an article on a public website…

            Anyway, Null points… But if at any time you would like to discuss any of the points raised by Prof Ernst in the article above, please feel free…

          • Nick Jenkins

            Anyway, as suspected you are a troll and no amount of citation I post will keep you from being dense and childish. You asked me to back up my claim and I did. Nuff said.

          • But, but… you said that wasn’t for me… Make your mind up…

            But getting back to Prof Ernst’s article…

          • Nick Jenkins


          • Acleron

            The Gary Null nonsense again?

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            My dear Alan……..

            You’ve acknowledged that you have absolutely no training whatsoever in the fields of medicine or medical research. That being the case, your requests for citations are superfluous, and your opinions of systems of medicines that don’t profit big pharma are just that — meaningless “opinions”.

            The rest of the world is now well aware of big pharma’s failures and shortcomings. People want and are increasingly turning to those medicines that do the most good without doing harm and which don’t bankrupt them.

            Freedom of choice in medicine is a human right. Please respect it.

          • As usual Christine, if you find any error in anything I say, please feel free to point it out – backed up with reasoned argument and good evidence, of course. I’ve asked this of you many, many times now, yet you’ve not. Why is that?

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            You haven’t yet said anything with any real content. “LOL” and “citation required” seems to be your limit. If you were given a citation, it would be meaningless to you since you don’t understand medical research. If you want information about alternative systems of medicine, I recommend you gain it through study.

          • You seem to think you know a lot about me… But I do seem to remember taking apart many many trial papers you’ve tried to cite in support of homeopathy or other delusion – it was rather easy as I recall, and you never seem to be able to respond (politely, anyway) to those criticisms.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            So, Alan, what ARE your credentials in medical research and homeopathic research in particular? What credentials do you hold in homeopathy that would allow you to conduct expert, knowledgable research? What peer-reviewed journals (or any other journals) have you been published in? No one without knowledge of research and homeopathy could possibly critique work done by true professionals. But then, of course, you have help from “skeptic” sites like sciencebasedmedicine.

          • ROFL! You are funny, Christine! Have I ever claimed I conduct research? Or are you using the homeopathic meaning of the word ‘research’? You know, the one that really just means ‘searching using Google’? But wouldn’t your criterion bar just about all homeopathy fans from critiquing anything to do with science and medicine?

            Oh! Wait! I do have a certificate in homeopathy from Boiron – the one that makes me over-qualified to practise homeopathy in the UK. Will that do?

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            Thank you, Alan. As you say once more you have no credentials in medicine, research of homeopathy. So your claim above to have “taken apart many, many trial papers” that have been positive for homeopathy holds no….ahem…..water.

            Thanks again, Alan, for the facts.

          • Sandra Courtney

            Alan Henness and his ilk are “tribal” skeptics.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            I always make this recommendation to them: Less time in the pub………..more time in the library. Of course, that would reduce their opportunities to be recruited for more big pharma jobs.

          • Sandra Courtney

            I agree! Alan and a friend from the U.S. at a SKIP meeting in London earlier this year.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            So glad to see Alan has a new T shirt!

          • ROFL! Nothing but (pathetic) attempts at insults, Sandra?

          • Sandra Courtney

            Alan dislikes anyone who supports homeopathy.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            Alan has single-handedly (except for a bit of help from his wife) reported many UK homeopaths to the ASA. He never reports doctors practicing conventional medicine. Of course, the ASA has no legal powers and is just a private organization which is part of the UK’s advertising industry. Nonetheless, they try to do their part against practitioners of alternative medicine by naming and shaming in Google ads. I’m told this is just one of the contributing factors to Brexit.

          • Yet more comprehension failures, Christine? Or memory loss?

            But your last sentence demonstrates just how out of touch with reality you are! It’s hilarious!

          • Sandra Courtney

            Alan and another anti homeopathy activist both report homeopaths to the ASA. I am sharing screen shot examples of the tactics they use on Twitter. This is a constant behavior by Alan. I have an online image file with dozens of examples, different homeopaths. I predict that Alan will alert some of his fellow skeptics that I have joined in the comments. They, and their insults, should appear shortly

          • lolexplosm

            Tactics? You mean like pretending to be victimised?

            “If an ad isn’t legal, decent, honest and truthful, it mustn’t run.”

            If the ad is deemed in breach and they ignore the ASA it will be referred to OFCOM.

            If it’s anything to do with medicine, it will forwarded to the MHRA. Both of these are government agencies.

            The ASA and OFCOM cannot check and enforce every ad ever, particularly online.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            We’ve seen an example of an attempt to identify and “trap a homeopath” in the comments above. Lolexplosm asks Nick Jenkins “How would you treat meningitis.”

          • Nick Jenkins

            Yea, I know their ways ….. I guess I am just entertaining them? Seems like banging your head off of a brick wall.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            Glad you’re aware……….some aren’t and fall into the trap.

          • Nick Jenkins

            Between being banned from Science Based Medicine for questioning the lies spewed out on that website and all blogs associated with those quacks who write articles for SBM I caught on very quickly to what is really going on. It stinks and is sad that professionals especially those who are given the responsibility of taking care of the ill are hell bent on lying and spreading disinformation. I personally think they should have their licenses removed.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            I could not agree more wholeheartedly. Sooner or later it all comes out, and then they’re disgraced. Unfortunately, people are hurt in the process.

          • has

            Euww – get a room, you two.

          • LOL! You do have some bizarre notions but you’re still pretty clueless, Sandra, aren’t you?

            I’ve not reported a homeopathy practitioner to the ASA for quite a number of years now – some six years, I think!

            But since you’ve mentioned it, perhaps I could report a few of them now? Which ones should it be, Sandra? You choose…

            But perhaps you think they shouldn’t have to comply with the rules, laws and regulations they’re supposed to? Perhaps there should be exemptions in the CPUTR 2012 for homeopaths so they can mislead the public with impunity?

          • Thanks for posting that, Sandra! Much appreciated.

          • Nick Jenkins

            Sad sad man. It makes you wonder why some people have such a strong desire to hurt others?

          • LOL!

          • Alan, you really need to start quoting the things you LOL at. The RGMs and BBPs of the world regularly delete their posts when they realise what they say is nuts. Not quoting these things robs those of us that missed out from getting the joke. 🙂

          • Gold said:

            “Alan, you really need to start quoting the things you LOL at. The RGMs and BBPs of the world regularly delete their posts when they realise what they say is nuts. Not quoting these things robs those of us that missed out from getting the joke. :)”

            I know. But I think you’re wrong about them realising what they say is nuts…

          • Alan and another anti homeopathy activist both report homeopaths to the ASA.

            They only report those that make claims that violate the established advertising standards in the UK. Due to Homeopathy having no demonstrable health effects it is very easy for Homeopaths to breach these guidelines. If anything, Alan et al are performing a service to the Homeopaths by helping them stay inside the guidelines.

            If you think these guidelines are incorrect you should be petitioning the ASA to correct things rather than going after the people that are volunteering their time to help Homeopaths not breach them. If you “fix” the ASA you will see an appropriate decline in these sorts of warnings.

            The best thing you could do to fix this would be to get an education that allowed you to understand the reason for these complaints being valid and then building a case that allowed your pet quackery to be seen as valid in that context.

          • Alan has single-handedly (except for a bit of help from his wife) reported many UK homeopaths to the ASA.

            Nicely done Alan. I’m guessing that you also report other advertisers that breach the ASA standards when you come across them too though. People have their focus though so I can understand the misconception that you only report homeopathy.

          • Acleron

            Do you know any real doctors in the UK that make misleading or false claims in adverts?

          • Sandra said:

            “Alan dislikes anyone who supports homeopathy.”

            I’ll decide who I do and don’t like. As you’ve been told many times before, I dislike those who mislead the public and who cannot substantiate the claims they make when advertising their business. How about you?

          • Sandra Courtney

            You cannot speak about the benefits, or not, of homeopathy as mentioned by Really Good Medicine above:

            “Thank you, Alan. As you say once more you have no credentials in
            medicine, research or homeopathy. So your claim above to have “taken
            apart many, many trial papers” that have been positive for homeopathy
            holds no….ahem…..water.”

            What ARE your qualifications Alan?

          • Sandra said:

            “You cannot speak about the benefits, or not, of homeopathy”

            Oh? Why not? Are you trying to censor or silence me? Don’t you want people to make fully informed healthcare choices? Why would that be?

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            You actually believe that someone like yourself with no medical training, expertise or credentials is capable of providing any kind of true, accurate information about any type of medicine? LOL! No one takes medical advice from people who are uninformed themselves.

          • I don’t offer medical advice, Christine. But as I never tire of saying, if you ever come across something I’ve said that you don’t believe is correct, please feel free to offer your correction… I’m still waiting, but I’m known for my patience…

          • Nick Jenkins

            You don’t say anything except garbage……. how can anyone point out anything needing correction when nothing of value is even stated?

          • Glad you realise nothing I’ve said needs any correction…

          • Nick Jenkins

            I rest my case

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            One more time……..you are NOT qualified to state what treatment is or is not effective for any condition. You are NOT qualified to report any practitioner for anything that may appear on their web sites because you have NO medical training, expertise or credentials much less experience. The ASA is a bogus organization. It is associated with the advertising industry in the UK. The fact that they pander to your reports makes them ridiculous.

          • Yep. You’re still amusing, Christine… And still utterly clueless. Please keep it up.

          • Jo Brodie

            These days no-one really needs any particular training, expertise or credentials to report a misleading homeopathy site.

            CAP* has helpfully published a guide on things that should not be said or implied in homeopathy
            marketing material (which includes leaflets, websites, Twitter, Facebook

            If a homeopath’s marketing material says or implies these things you can report them.
            If they don’t, you can’t (well you can but no point, the complaint wouldn’t be taken forward).

            Also the Society of Homeopaths (“the largest organisation registering homeopaths in the UK”) explicitly recognises the CAP / ASA code and SoH’s own “Code of Ethics and Practice (August 2015)” requires its members to comply with the UK’s advertising requirements, and other legal requirements (eg Cancer Act 1939) http://www.homeopathy-soh.org/about-the-society/corporate-documents – see Advertising and Media on page 9.


            *”The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) write and maintain the UK
            Advertising Codes, which are administered by the Advertising Standards
            Authority.” https://www.cap.org.uk/About-CAP.aspx

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            You say: “These days no-one really needs any particular training, expertise or credentials to report a misleading homeopathy site.” Alan Henness disagrees with you. He’s quoted as stating “The Nightingale Collaboration was set up to enable my wife, Maria McLaughlin, and I to share our knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in health care advertising.”

            Source: Facebook post by Lynne McTaggart, May 22, 2015

            A few years ago the ASA also prohibited churches from mentioning prayer as a healing aid in their literature and on their web sites. When I told a friend of mine about it, she laughed for a while and then said “They must be crazy.”

            The UK has become a very dark place.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine said:

            “You say: “These days no-one really needs any particular training, expertise or credentials to report a misleading homeopathy site.” Alan Henness disagrees with you. He’s quoted as stating “The Nightingale Collaboration was set up to enable my wife, Maria McLaughlin [sic], and I to share our knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in health care advertising.”

            Source: Facebook post by Lynne McTaggart, May 22, 2015″

            No need to rely on third party hearsay: we say that for ourselves on our website – you could have copied that without the errors.

            However, ignoring your comprehension problem with what Jo said, even though the ASA (and other regulators) welcome complaints from members of the public, some may require a gentle helping hand to navigate the website and their complaints form. But as you’ll no doubt guess, the vast majority of ASA complaints are made by those who I doubt very much have visited our website. Perhaps you would find our advice helpful if you ever found an advert that was making questionable claims, Christine?

            “A few years ago the ASA also prohibited churches from mentioning prayer as a healing aid in their literature and on their web sites. When I told a friend of mine about it, she laughed for a while and then said “They must be crazy.””

            Religions do get some special rules of their own, but IIRC, someone challenged a claim by a particular church that they could heal people. It turned out the church didn’t provide the necessary evidence to back up that claim. Perhaps you think people should be allowed to make claims they can’t substantiate?

          • Jo Brodie

            I’m not sure you’ve understood my comment.

            The ASA / CAP have *already* considered the evidence for homeopathy. They did so in response to a sizeable number of previous complaints and adjudications, and they have confirmed that the evidence is not convincing. They don’t need complainants to suggest WHY claims on a homeopath’s website are misleading, only that they’ve been published on someone’s website or other marketing material.

            Because ASA / CAP have published guidance on what homeopaths are now permitted to say it’s simply a matter of pattern-matching:
            1. What does the guide say websites / leaflets can’t say?
            2. Does the site / leaflet say it?
            3. Yes – consider reporting // No – don’t waste time.

            Knowledge of medicine, science or homeopathy isn’t needed for that (though it’s helpful for other complaints of course, I certainly use my *scientific* training / expertise when considering other claims that I’m not familiar with).

            The Nightingale Collaboration’s “knowledge and experience” includes plenty of advice about gathering information before making a complaint to the ASA or Trading Standards (screenshots, checking when a site was registered and to whom etc). It’s also helpful for people to know how best to format a complaint, what to include, what to leave out.

            Re: the prohibited church advertising
            One of the churches in question was claiming that their prayers could heal people from a catalogue of ailments including asthma, multiple sclerosis, depression and paralysis. They offered no evidence that they could do so and were obviously making misleading and unsubstantiated claims. You can see their claims here and I’m sure you’ll agree that they went too far and that the ASA took the right decision https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/6/Healing-on-the-Streets_Bath/SHP_ADJ_158433.aspx


          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            Obviously, you and the ASA don’t recognize how ridiculous their stance is. The UK is getting darker by the moment.

          • What’s ridiculous? Expecting advertisers to be able to substantiate their claims with good evidence?

          • Jo Brodie

            It isn’t ridiculous.

            Homeopaths are required not to mislead the public when promoting something (same as everyone else). At least one of the UK homeopathy societies say as much and specifically lists the CAP code as something that their registered homeopaths should follow.

            There’s also no evidence that you can pray away asthma, MS etc so churches also can’t make those claims either. I’ve zero objection to churches offering friendship and support, or even praying for or with people – but implying that it can fix ill health is frankly wicked.


          • You say: “These days no-one really needs any particular training, expertise or credentials to report a misleading homeopathy site.” Alan Henness disagrees with you. He’s quoted as stating “The Nightingale Collaboration was set up to enable my wife, Maria McLaughlin, and I to share our knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in health care advertising.”

            Nothing in Alan’s statement disagrees with what Jo said. Jo made a statement of fact about the nature of the CAP / ASA code and SoH’s own “Code of Ethics and Practice (August 2015)”. Alan describes a framework he set up to “share our knowledge”. The way Alan describes things he’ll be explaining how to use the CAP / ASA code as a tool to combat quackery. There’s no challenge there, let alone disagreement.

            Christine, have you always had trouble with reading comprehension?

          • Acleron

            We are discussing homeopathy and no medical training is required at all as homeopaths are not doctors and are certainly not interested in the health of their patients, only their wallets.

          • Sandra Courtney

            Alan is not qualified to comment on homeopathy. I refer you to quoted material from the Facebook page of Lynne McTaggart ,the person behind the WDDTY What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You Magazine. She notes his background which does not include a medical or scientific background.

          • LOL! More cluelessness, Sandra? It really is amazing how McTaggart managed to get so much wrong there…

            Now, what about the article? You know, the one up at the top? Remember that?

          • lolexplosm

            I hope you are not suggesting that only homeopaths can comment on homeopathy as that would be quite convenient.

            What about those with medical training? Because most with medical training dismiss it as quackery. The NHS states there is substantial evidence it does nothing and this view is echoed by the majority. I don’t think Big Pharma can pay that many off.

          • Alan is not qualified to comment on homeopathy.

            But… neither are you. You have no qualifications in these fields either. You are equally unable to speak on the topic if you think that qualifications on a topic are the only thing that allow one to speak on the topic.

          • Acleron

            Ah, Lynne McTaggart.

            She makes money by promoting pseudoscience.

          • Nick Jenkins

            No one is going to be able to make informed choices based off of what a moron is saying. Since I can see how challenged you are I will spell it out…… You are the moron Alan.

          • LOL! You’re nearly as amusing as Sandra and Christine!

          • Oh deary me, Christine. Severe comprehension fail on your part again. But that’s always your problem, isn’t it? You either don’t understand logical argument and reason or the cognitive dissonance forces you to just make stuff up…

          • Thank you, Alan. As you say once more you have no credentials in medicine, research or homeopathy.

            Did you miss the bit where Alan said he has a certificate in homeopathy from Boiron?

            Do you even bother reading the replies to your own comments before responding to them?

          • Acleron

            I’ll have to contradict you here. Homeopathic research (an oxymoron, I know) is the Google search but then only selecting results that are agreeable to the homeopath.

          • You haven’t yet said anything with any real content. “LOL” and “citation required” seems to be your limit

            And yet, in those short statements Alan is able to speak volumes and make himself completely understood. You, on the other hand, use so many words yet still fail to deliver even a hint at responding to simple, reasonable requests.

          • Acleron

            If Alan Henness has not claimed anything at all, according to you, what on earth do his qualifications have to do with anything?

            In fact, you are indulging in your normal smear campaign against anybody who offers legitimate questions or criticisms of your quackery, to which, you are unable to respond without one of your many logical failings. This one is the argument from authority fallacy.

          • Nick Jenkins

            Because you are a brainless troll. You think the tactics you use are new or something. Get over yourself, you are not swaying anyone’s opinion by pushing old outdated propaganda.

          • LOL!

    • lolexplosm


      Logical fallacies aside, do you really think all conventional medicine is quackery? Vaccines for example?

      • Nick Jenkins

        #1 SBM is 100% not a credible source, period. I wont say anything further on the matter. #2 Do not get me started on the subject of vaccines.

        • lolexplosm

          OK no worries, we will both save ourselves wasting time.

          Let’s try something else. How would you treat meningitis?

          • Nick Jenkins

            I am not a doctor nor do I wish to be one…… So I would not treat meningitis. If my child had meningitis I would take them to a Dr. who would treat them. Which mind you proves nothing about the amount of abuse that is happening with today’s pharmaceuticals and unnecessary drugs being overly used, unnecessary surgeries being performed, and the amount of disinformation being put out about the efficacy and safety of conventional medicines. So to answer your first questions directed at me…..No not all conventional medicine is quackery, mainly I use the word to keep the playing field even when Quack MD’s use the term to attempt to discredit any other modalities of healing the body.

          • lolexplosm

            How do you decide which Big Pharma chemical treatments are acceptable to be given? Are there many?

            How do you decide which other healing modality to use? Why not reiki to cure meningitis? Why go to the MD for meningitis and not the ND or homeopath?

          • Nick Jenkins

            Good question. For example any drug to treat symptoms as the disease such as cholesterol, blood pressure, pain, cancer I would avoid these medications like the black plague. Then you have the ones that flat out don’t work like antidepressants, or any add/adhd that cannot be justified to give to children or anyone. Then we have the common ailments that big pharma has turned disease and pushes meds that are perhaps effective relief of symptoms but cause secondary symptoms that can be irreversible and potentially be more burdensome than the original ailment such as otc sleep aids and nsaid pain relievers. As far as who to consult, that would depend on the diagnosis (which yes would be done by conventional medicine) and for something as rare and potentially life threatening as meningitis I would feel most comfortable if antibiotics, antiviral, antifungal medication was used but feel very confident based on research and self experience that more effective anti-inflammatory options exist aside from steroids. So I guess we have room for both to exist, one for extreme life saving intervention and the other for maintaining health and avoiding unnecessary chemicals.

          • lolexplosm

            That almost reads as an admittance that homeopathy, reiki, reflexology, chiro etc is useless in circumstances and that unless you use these other therapies permanently as health maintenance you will be subject to such rare diseases. Great business model. Almost victim blaming too. Big Pharma is obviously not perfect but I never understood how they’re evil for making lots of money but anyone else is fine to do so. An useless anecdote I know but a relation went to see a chiro over a chronic issue and after one assessment they said they knew what it was and it could be treated. What joy they had! Unsurprisingly they had to go every week to for maintenance therapy otherwise the condition would return. I don’t think they kept going too long after.

            You’d avoid all chemo and radiotherapy or just the ones involved with treating the symptoms of cancer? Either way cancer can cause many symptoms and they do need treating. If you meant skipping chemo/radio, I wish no one was ever in that situation but if you ever are, good luck.

            “we have the common ailments that big pharma has turned disease” – pretty sure Big Alternative has done the same thing claiming toxins and other generic symptoms of the asymptomatic need their treatments to cure the underlying cause. If you go to a quack MD with a chest infection, the MD doesn’t just give you cough syrup.

            Meningitis is rare thanks to conventional medicine via techniques such as vaccines. It is no thanks to homeopathy, crystal therapy, acupuncture etc. Steroids are circumstantial and not needed in every case. If an anti-inflammatory was needed, what would your research suggest to be used instead?

            For someone who doesn’t want to be a doctor, you seem to have an exact idea of what you think should and shouldn’t be given.

          • Nick Jenkins

            Oh where to start….. you know you had me thinking you were a level headed person not pushing an agenda but now its clear that you suffer from head up ass syndrome like every other quack chemical pusher. You kindly provide concrete evidence that vaccination is half as effective or safe as the medical community claims. Hint hint its not, never has been. I will kindly provide a link that proves vaccines for meningitis are at best temporarily effective. http://www.cochrane.org/CD001093/ARI_polysaccharide-vaccines-for-preventing-serogroup-a-meningococcal-meningitis It is like every other vaccine that has been researched, once the bias is thrown out they absolutely do not perform like we are made to believe. I have family members who grew up in the middle of nowhere who never took antibiotics or vaccinations and guess what they are alive and well today and one could argue are in better health that those who religiously receive medical treatment. So like you yes anecdotal but still very real. You can assume all day long and give your own meaning to what I post but if this is how you want to continue this will be my last response.

          • lolexplosm

            I’m pushing an agenda? Sometimes I wish I was, I hear it’s good money. I would argue that pushing anti-vaccine views and unproven non-pharma treatments is an agenda too.

            Apologies as this may sound like “head up ass syndrome” but it’s not my intention. The paper, from 2005 was concerning a polysaccharide vaccine which is accepted as not as good because the immunogenic response was not consistent in children as the vaccine causes an immune response that is T-cell independent. This problem was resolved via conjugation, making the immune response T-cell dependent. These are the vaccines now routinely used by the NHS.

            Vaccines have never claimed to be perfect and I don’t think anyone has ever tried to make anyone believe otherwise. Sometimes boosters are needed as it’s dependent on how the vaccine works as mentioned. Do you cross bridges? Bridges have collapsed before, how do we know the ones we use now are safe as we are told they are?

            However the benefits of vaccination are undeniable. They clearly work for the majority and they have saved millions if not billions of lives. I am glad your family members, in fact most of us, have been lucky to survive and live free from disease but consider only 200 years ago you were lucky to live past childhood assuming you or your mother survived childbirth. People in other parts of the world still suffer from diseases that were once common here but are now rare. I’m sure everyone has had a or heard of someone else’s relation that smoked 20 a day and drank like a horse and lived until they were 95 but that doesn’t mean tobacco or alcohol are any less of a health hazard.

            A good example of how Big Pharma can’t always push it’s latest cash cow creation is the Men B vaccine. The NHS have very recently started using this vaccine but, despite huge public support, only in very young children. Why? Because the JCVI, essentially the vaccine equivalent of NICE, said the evidence showed it wouldn’t be cost effective. The NHS website also states:

            “…Men B vaccine protects against almost 90% of the ones circulating in England.”

            So yeah not perfect, but 90% is a lot better than 0% not to mention the indirect benefits such as herd immunity.

            It’s funny how we ended up talking about vaccines anyway.

          • Nick Jenkins

            I have been convinced herd immunity is a theory and never been proven. Please show me evidence and not correlation that vaccines have saved millions if not billions of lives. I must not be special enough to see the studies or do not know where to look. I have been searching and the best I can find are studies of the same caliber of those that show injury including and not limited to autism, autoimmune disorders, transverse myelitis, AFP, other complications due to damage of the myelin sheath. When presenting this info it always gets discredited and flaws are pointed out in the studies but conveniently the studies do not differ from ones supporting vaccines. From my limited medical knowledge and only a few years of reading research papers it appears that the damage being caused by vaccines is out weighing the claimed benefits. For instance India right now is having more reports of paralysis then ever before and this is since introducing the oral polio vaccine. Columbia is closing schools until their government comes clean about injured girls since introducing the gardasil vaccine. Wouldn’t you know that none of this is being reported by our media. How many FDA approved drugs and vaccines have been pulled and replaced for safety and efficacy issues? I don’t appreciate the human race being treated as one big clinical trial when said benefits have not once been proven that I can find. I suppose I should shut up and listen to the specialist and professionals though.

          • lolexplosm

            Please provide evidence proving that herd immunity is an incorrect theory. Please provide evidence that the evidence supporting herd immunity doesn’t prove herd immunity as fact. Actually don’t, take it the Nobel Institute as you will likely be in line for a prize and a scholarship to an immunology department in any university.

            You want me to provide evidence for a pretty obvious speculative comment of billions saved as if disputing this part of my comment is ammo for your argument to refute vaccines? Millions is easy though, the WHO has estimated that over 17 million lives have been saved since 2000. That’s just one disease with one vaccine that’s been around for decades before 2000. The smallpox vaccine was introduced over 200 years ago. It all adds up.

            The rest is just so many [citations needed]. Evidence that paralysis in India is going up due specifically to the vaccine would be a surprise.

            I would advise you to check your sources or at least show some skepticism of those too. Health impact news, mercola, Natural news are all terrible for example. There is huge amounts of independent evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. You are skeptical of vaccines, which is a good thing as we should be skeptical of anything however, I do not think you are not showing the same skepticism to the stuff you read against vaccines. Also just because you personally cannot find the evidence or doesn’t feel it’s sufficient doesn’t mean that’s the case. You have admitted you have limited medical knowledge yet that seemingly qualifies you to thoroughly critically analyse and dismiss thousands of articles as inconclusive, poor quality or just wrong. I notice a commentator was derided for not having any homeopathic qualifications and thus not qualified to comment negatively on homeopathy. Pot kettle black.

            All vaccines aren’t effective and dangerous and thus should not be used – is a statement that would be a denial of science and simply ignorant to the wealth of evidence very strongly suggesting otherwise. There is no conspiracy by the media, government etc to hide these things. If Big Oil, who are worth much more than Big Pharma, can’t buy off the scientists and government with climate change, I don’t see how can Big Pharma do the same with vaccines.

            Unfortunately I fear a few outbreaks of meningitis, measles, rubella
            polio etc to convince people that the tiny risk of a
            serious side effect is better than a much higher risk of contracting the
            disease will be what it takes.

            This discussion is pretty much circular and never ending, I will continue to live in ignorance as a deluded sheep/troll/shill pharma zealot and you will continue to be against vaccines but I’m sure we both had some fun at least. At least we can both agree that you shouldn’t shut up and listen to professionals. Questioning everything is the best thing to do and something I wish everyone did.

          • Nick Jenkins

            Sometimes I just need an audience, so thanks. I agree with most that you said except most if not all vaccine science is tobacco, marketing, fear mongering science. Any Dr. or study that come to any conclusion but safe and effective are ridiculed and demonized. It’s like clock work every time. The day I see the health of the population (even just my local population’s)and well-being match the erroneous claims made by big pharma, or the WHO, and CDC I will forever bow down to petrochemical medicine and get myself on some anti depressants and anti-anxiety meds. Maybe blood pressure medication and for sure get…. what is it according to the cdc schedule ………roughly 12 vaccines to catch up. Promise.

          • Acleron

            There is a simple reason why anybody who claims that vaccines are ineffective or unsafe is disbelieved, they can never provide convincing evidence.

          • Nick Jenkins

            http://www.westonaprice.org/press/studies-show-that-vaccinated-individuals-spread-disease/ Here is some research about herd immunity. Sorry but such a funny concept.

          • Acleron

            There is no information on the validity of herd immunity in that press release. It is full of the false and misleading statements of anti Vaxxers. Most vaccines do not contain live virus. Measles deaths decreased due to better medical care, the infection rates that is the important statistic is strangely missing from your missive.

            Herd immunity is derived from the simple observation that reducing the number of people who are infective reduces the chances that an infection can spread in a population. It is more difficult to understand how herd immunity cannot exist than exist.

          • Nick Jenkins
          • I am not a doctor nor do I wish to be one…… So I would not treat meningitis.

            Just like a homeopath.

        • Hey @disqus_M7q0bAGC72:disqus, just fixing your post for you.

          #1 SBM is a 100% credible source, period. I won’t say anything further on the matter. #2 Do not get me started on the subject of vaccines because I don’t know anything on the topic.

          You’re welcome.

  • Chandra Sekar

    Ok. I am a pharmacologist, pharmacist and teach a course in alternative therapy. To label everything that doesn’t fall in the mainstream as “bogus medicine” is nonsense. I provided my Pharm D students with a week of “Ayurveda” exposure this summer during their trip to India. While they did not agree with everything they heard, there are many things which impressed them as “Ayurveda” means “Science of life” and it teaches you how to keep your body healthy in the first place – so you don’t need any medicine at all!

    I would rather train my helathcare professionals as integrated health professionals and then let them decide, what is a “bogus medicine”, an RX for Prozac for every depressed patient, or some massage and lavender oil!

    If we want to follow Professor Edzard Ernst advice on throwing out “bogus medicine” from pharmacy then I will also include getting rid of candies, snickers, soft drinks and many others items that are sold at pharmacies but when consumed on a regular basis ends up only generating customers for our pharmaceutical sales. Clear conflict of interest!

    • “candies, snickers, soft drinks”

      Are these medicines?

      • Chandra Sekar

        No, while they are not “medicines”, their consumption has a “negative outcome” on health and based on this article, pharmacies should be involved in producing a positive outcome on health for their patients.

        • Prof Ernst’s article was about bogus medicines, not things that could, if used to excess, maybe cause health problems.

    • has

      “Ayurveda” means “Science of life”

      Oh really? And here was me thinking it meant “chock full of mercury and lead“, which would’ve certainly helped to explain the frighteningly degraded thinking of a “pharmacologist” like yourself.

      • Nick Jenkins

        Are you talking about vaccines and the ingredients that are not required to be listed on pharmaceuticals? Its funny that the ingredients of non pharmaceutical come under attach when it is required by the FDA to have ALL ingredients listed, but when it comes to pharmaceuticals no such requirement is enforced. I guess we should just trust that we are being looked out for huh?

        • has

          Its funny that the ingredients of non pharmaceutical come under attack when it is required by the FDA to have ALL ingredients listed, but when it comes to pharmaceuticals no such requirement is enforced.

          So how’s the weather on Htrae today?

          • Nick Jenkins

            Weather is fine but everything else is square.

  • Maple Canner

    This is nonsence. Consumers need to be informed and have a choice when needing medication from a pharmacy. Being the products are on the shelf why not make an alternative suggestion.

    • has

      Informing consumers would of necessity require pointing out to them that the alt-med isle is nothing but useless and potentially dangerous flim flam put out by a $100Bn+ global industry whose sole function in life is flogging its MLM-esque religion as a recruitment tool just so it can scam the suckers out of hundreds of billions more given the chance.

      Is that the sort of “informed customers” you’re referring to, or did you have something else in mind?

  • has

    Some pharmacists claim they feel that stocking such products provides
    them with an opportunity for talking to patients and informing them
    about the evidence related to the remedy they were about to buy.

    Riiiight. The only thing that argument is good for is as a salve for a guilty conscience, and even then I bet it sucks.

    Frankly, if some part of the population chooses to commit suicide-by-Holland & Barrett, then that is their right. It does not in any way justify or excuse the pharmaceutical profession lying and misleading the rest of us in order to turn a buck: receiving genuine medical healthcare should be ours.

    If for-profit organizations really want to sell that garbage, there’s plenty of empty shopfronts they can use instead; just don’t call it “pharmacy” because frankly that is fraud.

  • ReallyGoodMedicine

    I guess the rest of the world either disagrees with or ignores Edzard Ernst when it comes to homeopathy.

    “The global homeopathy products market is witnessing strong growth due to effective and efficient treatments available in homeopathy for various diseases.

    “According to WHO homeopathy is the second largest system of medicine with a growth rate of 20% to 25% every year. The growing use of homeopathy and its legal acceptance has been seen in 66 countries.”

    Courtesy the Digital Journal: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/3015568

    I predict this news will be greeted by a chorus of voices denying the facts, attempts to discredit the Digital Journal and the market research behind the article plus any other ploy the “skeptic” mind can come up with. As I’ve seen it stated in other places” “How effective have the “skeptics” been? They haven’t been effective at all. Must be depressing!”

    • Jo Brodie

      What does “legal acceptance” mean? I don’t know of any country where homeopathy is illegal (it’s certainly not illegal in the UK).

      Surely you wouldn’t deny that homeopathy is dwindling on the NHS, that university courses have been closing in the UK and elsewhere and the regulatory framework and government scrutiny has changed quite considerably in the last few years? Of course this may well have happened without the efforts of skeptics, and I can’t prove causality, but (obviously) I think we’ve helped https://storify.com/jobrodie/skeptic-successes-in-homeopathy/

      • ReallyGoodMedicine

        The UK is ONE of 66 countries. The NHS is going to be privatized. The clinics of two world renowned homeopaths have been opened recently in London with great success. The British people are using more and more alternative medicine including homeopathy. The market for herbal and homeopathic medicines in the UK grew by 18% from 2008 and was worth 213 million pounds a couple of years ago. Experts forecast a rise to 282 million pounds by 2014. When the market analyses come out for 2014 that rise might be even higher.

        As has been said elsewhere: “How effective are the “skeptics” really? Not very. It must be depressing.”

        • [citation required] as they say…

          But since pictures might be easier for some to understand, here’s how much NHS homeopathy prescriptions fulfilled in community pharmacies in England have fallen in the last couple of decades:

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            Irrelevant — the NHS is being privatized.

          • ROFL! Are you saying homeopathy hasn’t plummeted in recent years? Or do you think homeopathy will somehow increase if and when the NHS is completely controlled by private companies? How would that happen do you think?

        • Jo Brodie

          I ask again, what does ‘legal acceptance’ mean?
          Herbal medicine is unrelated to homeopathy, though some homeopathic preparations use plant material, but it’s unhelpful to conflate the two as being similar (herbal medicine at least usually contains an active ingredient).
          We can’t stop people buying homeopathy from shops, we can certainly try and stop misleading claims from being made.


          • Jo

            It’s funny how so many confuse herbal products with homeopathic products, isn’t it?

          • Jo Brodie

            Yes, though I’ve no doubt that the homeopathic market WILL increase in the UK. Some of that may be due to the fact that the NHS will probably stop paying for it, meaning people will have to buy it themselves. I’d prefer they didn’t buy it themselves, but none of my business what people spend their money on – I’m more interested in preventing misleading claims from being made by sellers and manufacturers.


          • Yep.

          • ReallyGoodMedicine

            Legal acceptance means “government approval”. As you know in addition to legal acceptance, homeopathy is included in the national health care systems of many countries including Switzerland, the US, India, Brazil and Russia.

          • Jo Brodie

            Thanks, I didn’t know precisely what that phrase meant.


          • Oh! And where is this ‘government approval’ of homeopathy? Or are you making the rather elementary mistake of confusing something that’s not unlawful with something that’s legal?

  • Shadeburst

    This is completely OTT. When you walk into a pharmacy, if you want a real medicine you go to the dispensary counter. If you want cough medicine or something for your piles or bad breath or suntan lotion, you get it from the shelves. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to work out which are the drugs and which are the palliatives. If a pharmacist wants to sell Pokémon balls or Donald Trump beer mugs, good luck to them.

    • No one claims Pokémon balls or Donald Trump beer mugs are treatments for anything. Homeopaths will quite happily tell you they can treat all sorts of real ailments and some actual things that will kill you if not treated with something that will work.

      Take the The College Of Practical Homeopathy in the UK as an example. http://www.collegeofpracticalhomeopathy.co.uk/#!Understanding-Travel-Homeopathy/c1jbq/55b421050cf286eab02c310c

      Their Understanding Travel Homeopathy page talks about treatments and preventatives for Malaria, “Sickness” (that’s descriptive) and Diarrhoea, Yellow Fever, amoebic dysentery, Typhoid fever, Sunstroke, food poisoning, tetanus, “cold bluish Injuries” (wtf is that?) and septic states. These are listed on one page. If Homeopathy is relied on and the victim actually has some of these they could die. Painfully.

      Just the presence of Homeopathy in a pharmacy gives it the air of legitimacy. It’s not legitimate.

  • Acleron

    The selling of quackery legitimises them. Few herbals and no homeopathic have any effect at all. Rightly or wrongly we are encouraged to make choices about our own health. There are excellent sources of information such as NHSChoices but unfortunately they are drowned out by the multitude of misinformation by quackery sites. Chemists are being asked to advise on health matters, they are respected and listened to. Selling healthcare products with zero health benefits is not only unethical but may lead to a loss of that respect as well as the well known phenomena of sick individuals being persuaded against seeking medical attention.

  • Abraka Dabra

    Chemotherapy is a good example. That “cure” has killed more people than cancer. According to Australian government research, chemo has around 2% success rate, and this is when you include a few ones that really work. So, if you count those out, most of them have a negative success rate. Meaning, they contribute to killing the patient, not curing him. And yet, those harmful chemicals are sold as if they are made of gold. A true snake oil.

    • Acleron

      The 2% meme, it is plain wrong.

      Even if your figure was correct it means that 2% of people survive cancer who would not have survived without it. No all med therapy can achieve that, none at all.

      Homeopathy was sugar and water in Hahnemann’s day, it was completely ineffective and is still ineffective. Chemotherapy is improving all the time with new dosage regimens and new drugs.

      If you have a lethal cancer the lesson is clear, modern medicine can save your life, alt medicine will not.

    • @Abraka Dabra:disqus, apart from being plain wrong on the 2% thing (and the rest) this just shows that you really don’t understand what chemo is or how it does what it does.

  • squidinkery

    If you assume that homeopathy offers nothing more than placebo effect, then there are still good reasons not to dismiss it ALL as quackery.

    Consider the difference between homeopathic pain relief and homeopathic malaria vaccine (I kid you not). The former is likely to be used as a substitute for paracetamol or ibruprofen, and being a placebo, it may well work just as well, without the potential for harm from drugs (eg. medication over-use headaches, liver damage and ulcers), and the drugs remain an option if the placebo doesn’t work. I would argue that making homeopathic pain relief available (with ethical caveats) is an excellent idea.

    Conversely, if homeopathic malaria vaccines cause people to contract malaria because they thought they didn’t have to take the real thing, then… well, burning at the stake is no longer allowed, but arguably there should be something in the legal system to deal with this.

    • If you assume that homeopathy offers nothing more than placebo effect, then there are still good reasons not to dismiss it ALL as quackery

      If homeopaths stuck to using the placebo effect as the explanation for how it does what it does then we wouldn’t be referring to it as quackery. But they don’t. We have water memory, quantum medicine, nano medicine, energy medicine. Every time something comes up relating to the very very small homeopaths will jump on it. The cling to anything but the actual thing.

      Conversely, if homeopathic malaria vaccines cause people to contract malaria because they thought they didn’t have to take the real thing, then… well, burning at the stake is no longer allowed, but arguably there should be something in the legal system to deal with this.

      You hit the nail on the head there. There is nothing there that enforces this. Homeopaths appear unwilling to regulate themselves to prevent themselves from wandering outside of treating only self limiting conditions. If they stuck to that they’d likely have remained under the radar of skeptics that speak out against them.

      Even if that was the case though, it still leads to magical, irrational thinking. Leaving it be for as it has been is what has lead it to the point where is is causing real harm. Not just in the growing list of victims that have been harmed or died because they eschewed actual medicine in favour of it but in the way people think which can lead to poor, uneducated decision making that can have knock on effects on many more people than just themselves.