Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mmmm, Prostate Cordial

I went to the pharmacy today to pick up some moisturiser, as it is reaching the time of year here where my skin decides to spontaneously peel off. That is, if I don't moisturise with some heavy-duty moisturiser.

I was simply astounded at increase in the number of "alternative" therapies being promoted on the shelves. Including "prostate cordial". Seriously. The mind boggles.

Now, I realise that there are a number of things that conventional medicine does not treat particularly well at the moment (although new and wondrous things are always in development), and people have every right to choose their own forms of treatment. This is not an argument against alternative therapies.

It is just that it seemed like there was something really wrong about selling alternative therapies at a pharmacy. The public at large tend to trust pharmacies and pharmacists, and a product that is sold at a pharmacy is more likely to be seen as accepted or endorsed by the medical community.

Nothing makes me more angry than people who suffer because they listened to some "alternative" health care provider who told them some unproven treatment would heal them where conventional medicine would not. I'm talking about the people who hawk alternative treatments to people in the early stages of cancer, which at that point is entirely treatable. When the patient persists with this alternative treatment and dies when they had a very good chance of going into remission because the cancer was caught early, I believe that the person who "advised" them about the alternative healthcare should be subject to criminal charges. This is the kind of "alternative therapy" that gets makes me furious.

My concern is that, by selling weird alternative products on their shelves next to more reputable products, a pharmacy business is endorsing them as a product of equal value, at least in the eyes of the members of the public who don't like medications and get drawn in by claims of a product being "natural". The last time I bought cough syrup, the girl behind the counter of the pharmacy tried to get me to buy some herbal elixir instead. It cost three times as much. I politely requested the regular variety.

Where does accountability for this kind of thing lie? I am not suggesting that all of these situations are life-threatening. But surely there should be some standards for selling what are essentially expensive placebos in the same business where most people go to get their regular medication?

How do qualified pharmacists feel about this kind of thing?


MrHunnybun said...

Couldn't agree more. I think everything on teh shelve sin a pharmacy should have some form of evidence-base. (and that's a proper evidence base, not an n=1 study and some celebrity anecdotes)

I don't sell any homeopathic crap, or anything herbal without a firm evidence base. The same with "magic" cellulite reducing creams and miracle slimming cures.

I guess a fool and his money are easily parted, but not by me. It's embarrassing to see this sort of crap being sold in pharmacies

The Girl said...

Thanks for your response, mrhunnybun.

When I got to the counter in this store, they were also selling "karma bracelets".

I couldn't believe it.

Oz Meddie said...

Oh, havent you read the journal articles on karma bracelets The Girl? That negative karma you've been lugging around is guaranteed to just melt right off... :P

The Girl said...

If they can get ethical approval for studies done to investigate the healing properties of magnets, anything is possible . . . ;)

yay said...

I only sell homeopathic products when I am wishing to exploit the placebo effect. For example, adults who are having trouble getting to sleep. If a homeopathic bottle of water works for them, it's a lot better than them getting hooked on temazepam. I never say "this has been proven to work" or even "this is very good", I tend to err on the side of "some people find that just having SOMETHING to spray under their tongue helps them to relax at bed time".

I have two naturopaths on staff at my work, one is also a pharmacist, the other specialises in sports nutrition. Both are quite happy to tell those seeking herbs for something that needs drugs, that the herbs will not help. I am not at all anti "natural" medicines, however, I don't recommend things unless evidence suggests that they may be of benefit in that particular patient. Same as with conventional medicines really.

I am quite comfortable telling people that the herbal weight loss stuff is a load of garbage, the homeopathic kids medicine will not work ("the placebo effect doesn't work so well in a baby with teething pain"), and the reason they're tired is probably nothing to do with needing more vitamins but rather related to their vegan diet, heavy menstrual loss and underactive thyroid.

In terms of having that crap in the pharmacy... it does annoy me. However unfortunately people want these products and will go to wherever has them - keeping the business side afloat means that you do have to compromise. I guess that when people come in asking for whatever Naomi Robson was pushing last night, I try to use it as an opportunity to introduce more evidence-based treatment to their care or to refer them to the appropriate other health type person.