We are looking for skeptics around the country to help the NZ Skeptics Society gather evidence for a submission we will be making to the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand. We need people to visit pharmacies around the country and gather information about how homeopathy is sold and promoted. Unfortunately, we have limited time to gather this information as our proposal needs to be submitted by the 1st of October. If you are able to help us, please read on:
Recently the Society for Science Based Healthcare has asked the Pharmacy Council about their Code of Ethics, and how it relates to the sale of homeopathy in pharmacies. Section 6.9 of the code says that healthcare products can only be supplied “when there is credible evidence of efficacy”.
The Pharmacy Council has now opened a consultation with a view to changing this part of the code. Their proposed amendment would do away with the requirement for evidence of efficacy for supplying both complementary therapies and healthcare products other than medicines and herbal remedies. In its place, the proposed code says that pharmacists should be able to provide “sufficient information about the product” to allow “the purchaser to make an informed choice”. The consultation document goes on to say:
“Pharmacists should be able to advise patients about the general use, current state of evidence, associated effectiveness and any safety issues relating to complementary and/or alternative medicines. This knowledge should provide the basis on which a pharmacist makes a conscious decision on whether or not to supply or promote these types of medicines. In instances where there is credible evidence to suggest a specific complementary and/or alternative medicine/product lacks efficacy, pharmacists should not promote or recommend its use.”
The NZ Skeptics Society will be submitting a proposal, and we would like your help. We plan to use homeopathy as a good test subject, as it’s clear that it doesn’t work beyond any placebo effect. We are concerned that pharmacists, and pharmacy assistants, are not all aware that there is no good quality evidence that homeopathy works, and that some pharmacies are willing to promote homeopathic products as a viable treatment for various conditions.
What we would like people to do is to take a few minutes to visit a pharmacy close to you and ask about a homeopathic product. Listen to what the pharmacist has to say about the product, whether it works, what conditions it is good for, etc. Then, when you are able to, send us an email telling us what was said, the date of your visit and the name of the pharmacy you visited (store brand and location should be sufficient). The more details of your conversation the better, including the name of the homeopathic product, any specific claims of efficacy and so on. However, even if you can only give us a general overview such as “they told me it would help with insomnia”, that information will still be useful to us. If you’re really keen, and live somewhere with several pharmacies nearby, feel free to visit more than one and send us multiple reports.
We’d also like to hear of negative results, where a pharmacy doesn’t promote or even doesn’t sell homeopathy – as well as it being fair and balanced to collate these results, it would be heartening to hear that some pharmacies are abiding by their Code of Ethics! Even if you are unable to talk to a staff member about homeopathy, please let us know the details of the pharmacy you visited and whether it stocks homeopathic products.
Any prior encounters with a pharmacy would be relevant as well, where a pharmacy has tried to sell you a homeopathic product or where they’ve defended homeopathy after you’ve challenged them for selling it in the past. I’ve talked with several skeptics who have had homeopathy recommended to them by pharmacies, and I can also name two pharmacies close to me where I’ve challenged their sale of homeopathy and been told that they sell it because it works.
Please send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. As I said before, our submission has to be in by the 1st of October so we would like to have all responses in by the 29th of September – two weeks from today. We will make our submission public when it is complete, and will ensure we anonymise any personal data in your responses before adding them to the document.