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Beware the Phony Pharmacists!

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Mefiante
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« on: October 31, 2007, 11:36:32 AM »

Dr ’Luthon64 and I think we have recently noticed a growth in the number of pharmacies, including hypermarket-like outlets such as Dischem, that stock various alternative nostrums, especially those of the homoeopathic kind.  Purported cures are on offer for both humans and animals, covering a range of common maladies from depression, headaches, indigestion, and so on.

It is debatable whether this increase is actually happening or merely the result of us noticing it more, although one specific Weleda pharmacy near us recently began offering courses in aromatherapy, crystal healing and magnetic therapy, and also sells the requisite oils, crystals and magnets.  On grocery shopping days we pass the entrance of this pharmacy.  The entrance allows a clear view of the dispensary where we frequently see the pharmacist vigorously shaking plastic bottles of what appears to be water and squirting small volumes into small brown glass bottles bearing white and green labels.  These little brown bottles are, of course, the containers the homoeopathic preparations are sold in.

At the weekend, an acquaintance of ours visited and told us about an incident she had been involved in at this pharmacy.  She had been in Cape Town on business the week before and had contracted ’flu.  She went to the pharmacy and asked for some aspirin-based off-the-shelf drug that would give her symptomatic relief.  The pharmacist at first actually refused to sell the requested item, saying that he didn’t believe in it!  Instead, he offered first a homoeopathic replacement and then some Chinese concoction of unknown composition.

Fortunately, our friend knows her stuff and insisted on her original request unless the pharmacist could meet her challenge to him: she would randomly pick three different homoeopathic cures from the pharmacy’s shelf (which held about 30 or so different ones) and put a little of each into separate beakers.  If the pharmacist could correctly identify all three, she would buy what he recommended.  That, reportedly, is when he had the good grace to shut up and give her what she had originally asked for.

’Luthon64
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2007, 12:02:56 PM »

I have met at least two people, one trained as a pharmacist and the other as a microbiologists of some sort. Both at reputable universities too. They seemed to know their subject reasonably well, and I'm sure they know much more than me about chemistry and really what goes into the medicine we take. However, when I asked about homeopathic medicine, it seems all this knowledge go out the window. They will both use and sell these products. They simply have not bothered to look into the evidence or published studies and instead just believe what they are told. When I point out that if homeopathic medicine worked as they believe, it would go against all their training as scientists and what they know about their field, they will have any number of excuses. They are both also aware of the placebo effect.

It's dangerous that even the people who are supposed to know better and who are trusted to know their field, are often uncritical in their thinking.
I suspect it pays better too...


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Mefiante
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2007, 13:48:36 PM »

It's dangerous that even the people who are supposed to know better and who are trusted to know their field, are often uncritical in their thinking.
Agreed, though the pharmacist I wrote of was deliberately obstructive, even towards his own business interests.  If nothing else, homoeopathic preparations are usually quite harmless because of their extraordinary dilutions, although I'm aware of one in powder form that consists mostly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) for the treatment of heartburn and indigestion.  It is labelled "Homeopathic" and supposedly, it's all the other ingredients that occur in homoeopathic dilutions with the CaCO3 powder that accounts for the preparation's effectiveness.  Conventional medical practitioners are generally well aware of CaCO3's antacid properties that require no augmentation by submicroscopic traces of activated charcoal and such.

While I understand that a pharmacy is first and foremost a business and that a greater diversity of products on sale should go towards improved profitability, I too struggle to come to terms with the idea that someone with a B.Sc. degree can so readily jettison the core principles they were taught for three or more years.

Does anyone know whether pharmacists are bound by the Hippocratic Oath?

'Luthon64
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Mefiante
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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2007, 10:19:02 AM »

On the topic of homoeopathy, here’s a scathing UK article about its spill-over into Africa.  The original posting was removed after the UK Society of Homeopaths asked that this be done.

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Wandapec
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2008, 20:53:14 PM »

I studied pharmacy and qualified in '95. During our studies we were encouraged to do some hours in a pharmacy during the holidays. This was my first introduction to homeopathy. On a number of occasions with different lecturers, questions were asked as to why we did not have a course in homeopathy. On all occasions the answer was plain and simple - there is no scientific basis for the use and application of homeopathy. Pharmacy was based on the use of chemicals where the structure of the chemical has an effect on a receptor,  or chemical etc. in some part of the body that resulted in some sort of reaction.

However, when working in pharmacy as a pharmacy student or pharmacy intern, I suppose like most industries when you start out you are just a little kippie, you did what you were told! This meant that if someone came in and asked for some homeopathic remedy, instead of something that really worked, you would go over to the shelf and read the label to find something that would fix the problem. (We used to joke about the claims the bottles made all the time - the same mixture could be used for heartburn, headaches, tinitis and athletes foot! Smiley ) There is good money in homeopathic preparations and thanks to popular magazines and TV programmes the demand continues to drive supply.

We didn't have any sort of Hippocratic Oath that we had to comply to. I think there should be one though.
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Mefiante
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2008, 10:06:46 AM »

Okay, thanks wandapec for clearing that up.  It is much as I had surmised.  Here’s more on the Hippocratic Oath for the interested reader.  It does strike me as odd, though, that pharmacists are not expected to swear it, considering that there is an ethical (or, in some case, an unethical) side their practices, which relate to medicine.

'Luthon64
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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2008, 09:51:54 AM »

@wandapec
How informed do you think most pharmacists in SA are on the subject of homoeopathy? And if they do understand it, what are the reasons for them still selling it?
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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2008, 16:09:05 PM »

That's a tough one, but I would think that the answer is no. There are those pharmacists that will develop an interest in homeopathy more than likely based on some experience they have had in life e.g. every time granny gets a cold she takes X and within a week to 10 days she's better, or Uncle Bob is 70 years old and rides the Argus every year swearing that taking Y is the only reason he could manage! I think these people probably fall in the Dr. Michael Shermer's category of "Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons."! What upsets me is the fortunes we have wasted because my wife is convinced that this stuff works - I may have lost a couple of those battles but I think I am slowly winning the war!  Cool

I think with pharmacy in general, the besides the fact that there is a profit to be made it is a simple case of supply and demand, and in pharmacy's case it just happened to be in the right place at the right time i.e. Homeopathy shops didn't open up all over the place to cater for the demand.

Speaking for myself, when I did work in pharmacy, over time you get to know what to give for what problem based on what the label says on the bottle. Alternatively, you would put the customer onto the pharmacist or nursing sister that "knows" the most about those preparations. 

I once read a pharmacy magazine that had a cartoon about the "like treats like" aspect of homeopathy. A guys walks into the pharmacy with a gunshot would asking for something homeopathic - the pharmacist promptly pulls out a gun and puts another hole in him!  Smiley
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Wandapec
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2008, 17:06:07 PM »

Look what I found in a pharmacy about 2 days ago - Magic Bracelets! I think these therapies fall in line with what I mentioned earlier about supply and demand in pharmacy. Astrophysicist Miguel A. Sabadell, asks some questions about this ancient therapy, as does Bruce Flamm(Nice picture of the real affects of magnetic therapy!). It seems to be quite popular though, if you just Google "magnetic bracelets", you get a whole heap of sites pushing the therapy.

I must admit, my lower back ache suddenly disappeared as I walked past the shelf.....  Grin



Claims on packaging -
"Uses the ancient art of magnetic therapy which helps to ease stiffness & reduce arthritis pain."

  • "Base Metal: Copper"
  • "Powerful 2,000+ Gauss Magnets"
  • "Drug Free Pain Reliever"
  • "Natural Way of Improving Health"
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 17:10:51 PM by wandapec » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2008, 20:19:36 PM »

"Powerful 2,000+ Gauss Magnets"

So a 2 000 Gauss magnet is good for you?  Strange how the woo brigade also believes that the magnetic field from power lines causes brain tumours (requiring all manner of protective crystals or "chips") but they will happily use a 2 000 Gauss (0,2 Tesla or 200 000 micro Tesla) magnet at a distance of 0 metres for its curative properties Huh?.  So why then is the magnetic field from a 765 KiloVolt powerline carcinogenic?  The 765 KV line at a 10 metre distance creates a field of less than 12 micro Tesla (see Eskom report page 10).  10 meters is the peak area of the maximum magnetic field and to remain in the field you would have to hover 4 metres off the ground directly below the lines.
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Dr. Nancy Malik
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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2008, 05:56:46 AM »

I have met at least two people, one trained as a pharmacist and the other as a microbiologists of some sort. Both at reputable universities too. They seemed to know their subject reasonably well, and I'm sure they know much more than me about chemistry and really what goes into the medicine we take. However, when I asked about homeopathic medicine, it seems all this knowledge go out the window. They will both use and sell these products. They simply have not bothered to look into the evidence or published studies and instead just believe what they are told. When I point out that if homeopathic medicine worked as they believe, it would go against all their training as scientists and what they know about their field, they will have any number of excuses. They are both also aware of the placebo effect.

It's dangerous that even the people who are supposed to know better and who are trusted to know their field, are often uncritical in their thinking.
I suspect it pays better too...



the medical establishment is intrinsically conservative, blinkered and unreceptive to new ways of thinking.I think that the modern medical establishment needs to be a lot more open-minded and progressive
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2008, 09:38:21 AM »

the medical establishment is intrinsically conservative, blinkered and unreceptive to new ways of thinking.I think that the modern medical establishment needs to be a lot more open-minded and progressive
That is just not true. But I suspect you are referring to things like homeopathy again. Not being receptive of treatments that have dubious pseudo scientific claims and shown not to work after being studied at length, is not being close minded, it is sensible.
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Mefiante
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2008, 10:40:55 AM »

the medical establishment is intrinsically conservative, blinkered and unreceptive to new ways of thinking.I think that the modern medical establishment needs to be a lot more open-minded and progressive
I wonder what you’d do if you needed a procedure like neuroplasty or some other delicate medical interference that is the product of “the medical establishment” that, according to you, “is intrinsically conservative, blinkered and unreceptive to new ways of thinking.”  A friend of ours almost died at a very young age of a middle ear infection because his parents insisted on going to a homoeopath.  Only when things got very bad did they see a conventional doctor who successfully treated the condition with antibiotics.  Our friend has noticeable hearing loss in the affected ear, which can be laid directly at the feet of the homoeopath who should have known better and recommended conventional treatment from the start instead of prescribing what is no more than distilled water.

'Luthon64
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Mefiante
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2008, 13:15:48 PM »

Two other things:
  • Hahnemann’s homoeopathy goes back to the early 1800s, making it near enough 200 years old.  This age hardly qualifies it as a member of  the category of “new ways of thinking.”  If anything, it falls under the rubric of “ancient and ignorant ways of seeing sympathetic magic everywhere.”
  • If someone asked you to prepare, say, a 36C dilution of Pulsatilla, would you be able to pick your own preparation out from a bunch of inert preparations that all look alike?

'Luthon64
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« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2008, 09:06:31 AM »

S
the medical establishment is intrinsically conservative, blinkered and unreceptive to new ways of thinking.I think that the modern medical establishment needs to be a lot more open-minded and progressive
That is just not true. But I suspect you are referring to things like homeopathy again. Not being receptive of treatments that have dubious pseudo scientific claims and shown not to work after being studied at length, is not being close minded, it is sensible.
Since you have never have an advantage of homeopathic treatment, how do you know it does not work?
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