Discussing homeopathy on Rip Off Britain

it's been so long since my last post, for which I apologise. I have had a fairly severe case of Writer's Block. But I figure helping out on a national TV programme is worth a few words, right?

if you go down to i-player today (or within the next 20-odd days), you won't find a teddy bears picnic, but you will find yesterday's episode of Rip-off Britain, featuring one of the smartest, bravest community pharmacists I know. And the subject is our old nemesis, homeopathy. 

A few months ago, I got an e-mail asking if I would be willing to help provide some background information to the show. I jumped at the chance, though I was also a little wary, in case it became a hatchet job for the whole profession.

but I decided the risk was worth it, and so had a conversation with a very nice chap one evening, in which I essentially ranted on for a long time whilst made notes. I gave him the background on how pharmacists are regulated, and the difference in roles between the RPS and GPhc. I told him about how I thought homeopathy breached our professional standards if not sold correctly.I told him about how, if I'm in a pub talking about homeopathy, I'll often collect together various pint glasses in order to better demonstrate the dilution process, and how people are then usually amazed and outraged when they realise that homeopathic medicines contain no active ingredient. Most importantly of all, I told him my theory that most pharmacists who sell homeopathy badly do so because of a lack of knowledge, rather than a willful way of exhorting money from poorly customers. 

Then came the dreaded question: would I be willing to appear on camera to say all of this? Yes. Yes I would. I would absolutely adore to, in part because it is the scariest thing I could ever think to do and I haven't been so good at challenging myself of late.  But my workplace would no doubt see it differently, as they have done before. But luckily, I knew exactly who to ask to do it in my place though, and she's done me and the profession proud. 

in the programme, the undercover journalist actually received the best advice from Holland and Barrett. Let's just let that sink in for a bit, shall we? Holland and Barrett gave better advice that several registered pharmacies. Yes, it's a small sample, and the chap in this particular Holland and Barrett is likely an outlier, but if ever something should make our profession hang our heads in shame, it is that. 

There is a mistake in the programme too. They referred to the Faculty of Homeopathy as regulating homeopaths, but that's nonsense. Homeopaths don't have to be a member of the Faculty, and it seems that they do very little in the way of regulation anyway. Homeopaths can do what they please, with no one to slap their wrists when they harm people, unlike real healthcare professionals. 

The researchers contacted Nelson's, who said that they were disappointed that pharmacists weren't giving the right advice. They offered to provide more training, but I certainly do not think that's the sort of thing the profession needs. We need to be better able to distinguish between homeopathy and herbal medicines, and we need to make sure that we are honest with our patients. We need to know that "a lot of people buy it" is NOT the same thing as "it works", and we need to find better ways of connecting community pharmacists with good quality evidence. 

Thank you, Cathryn. You've done us proud.