Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Pharmacists mix science with hogwash

  • Print
  • Comments (44)
  • Rate
  • Save

I doubt anyone would criticise the decision of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to ‘warn’ a pharmacist against giving inappropriate advice to a customer. Particularly when, according to a news story in Chemist and Druggist, that customer was told by the pharmacist that it might be an option to get his daughter, who was just developing symptoms suggesting type 1 diabetes, to see an iridologist. No one is going to condone that advice, certainly not diabetologists, clearly not pharmacists, and presumably not even the ‘Guild of Naturopathic Iridologists International  - the leading body for qualified iridologists in the UK’ (yes, really).

Cut and dried, isn’t it? Well, not quite. While this example seems outrageous, it’s merely at the extreme end of a couple of spectra – specifically, medicine ranging from the evidence-based to the snake-oily, and advice ranging from explicit to implicit – which intersect, quite uncomfortably, in the average pharmacy.

Pharmacists get on with their jobs, mixing science with hogwash, hoping that GPs will one day take them seriously

In this case, that intersection is clearly at the point of ‘dangerous advice’. But what about situations involving the sale of, let’s say, useless herbal remedies, or copper bracelets for rheumatism or, to quote my personal favourite, a special glove to improve the efficiency of breast lump detection during monthly self-examination? Not dangerous, maybe, but misleading, useless and potentially diverting from effective interventions. And not ‘advised’ perhaps, but the implication of sale is surely a pharmacist recommendation of some sort?

And where does the GPhC stand on these examples, which are less blatant and extreme than iridology for T1DM but which lie on the same continua? Nowhere to be seen, as far as I can tell. In the meantime, pharmacists get on with their jobs, mixing science with hogwash, hoping that GPs will one day take them seriously. They know, despite all the brave talk about pilots, that we can’t, not until the GPhC shows some consistency. You can see it in their eyes.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield

Rate this blog  (4.45 average user rating)

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (44)

  • Nice punchline :-)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Oh yes, the special gloves! Wouldn't mind but the patient then brought it to me to show her to use it..

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A am so dismayed I do not what to say to defend my profession, I was recently asked by a Chemist (not a Pharmacist) whether I advocated homeopathy and I said I could not condone it, but it may have a placebo effect, the EBM is not there and given that concentrations are at the levels of Avogadro's constant there is no scientific backup.

    It cuts both ways I was recently given as a way of explanation by a GP that he [sic] he was allergic to guidelines like NICE, SIGN, JSB3 but who am I to interfere with clinical freedom as long as he can account for it. I ended up intervening at the patient's request.. where clinical freedom meets concerns for the patient....

    Clinical Pharmacist

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A am so dismayed I do not what to say to defend my profession, I was recently asked by a Chemist (not a Pharmacist) whether I advocated homeopathy and I said I could not condone it, but it may have a placebo effect, the EBM is not there and given that concentrations are at the levels of Avogadro's constant there is no scientific backup.

    It cuts both ways I was recently given as a way of explanation by a GP that he [sic] he was allergic to guidelines like NICE, SIGN, JSB3 but who am I to interfere with clinical freedom as long as he can account for it. I ended up intervening at the patient's request.. where clinical freedom meets concerns for the patient....

    Clinical Pharmacist

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Any thoughts on GP's who prescribe homeopathy? Yes it does happen!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Any thoughts on GP's who prescribe homeopathy? Yes it does happen!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Don't worry I'm not that fussed to be taken seriously... Despite what many doctors seem to think - not all of us chose pharmacy as a second choice because we "didn't get the grades for medicine". Instead I'm quite content driving my Lamborghini whilst you guys have to touch all kinds of people displaying all kinds of horrendous symptoms... Enjoy being taken seriously!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Ivan Benett

    Horrible devisive piece. I prescribe homeopathy, and many other placebos, like paracetamol, heat rubs, methol inhalers and in fact anything that will make my patients feel better. Sometimes, that's all there is.
    So, the sooner some of us doctors get off our arrogant pseud-evidence-based high horses, and recognise that medicine and healing is more than science, the better. Only surgery and antibiotics cure things, the rest is down to a therapeutic relationship and time (I'm exagerating to make the point before any pompous GP gets on my back). So chill out GPs and accept that our Pharmacist colleagues have a lot to offer. Unless you really want to see every muscle ache, sore eye, or itchy rash.
    Let's work with then to identify red flags, rather than this unprofessional nonesense.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Ivan Benett

    Horrible devisive piece. I prescribe homeopathy, and many other placebos, like paracetamol, heat rubs, methol inhalers and in fact anything that will make my patients feel better. Sometimes, that's all there is.
    So, the sooner some of us doctors get off our arrogant pseud-evidence-based high horses, and recognise that medicine and healing is more than science, the better. Only surgery and antibiotics cure things, the rest is down to a therapeutic relationship and time (I'm exagerating to make the point before any pompous GP gets on my back). So chill out GPs and accept that our Pharmacist colleagues have a lot to offer. Unless you really want to see every muscle ache, sore eye, or itchy rash.
    Let's work with then to identify red flags, rather than this unprofessional nonesense.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Agree with above.
    We are on the same side, sowing discord in this way is extremely unhelpful.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say

  • Print
  • Comments (44)
  • Rate
  • Save

From: Copperfield

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex with more than a few chips on his shoulder