This report is part of the NZ Skeptics’ Submission to the Pharmacy Council‘s consultation of their Code of Ethics.
The following are reports gathered in response to a request the NZ Skeptics sent out to its Alert newsletter subscribers. All identifying information about the sender of each report has been removed from the document.
I visited the UFS pharmacy on Courtenay Place in Wellington this morning.
I couldn’t see any homeopathic products on the shelves, so I asked the Pharmacist if they had any. She said she thought they only stocked a couple of Welada ones, but if a customer wanted homeopathy products she would refer them to a local homeopathy dispenser.
I asked if she thought that homeopathy worked and she answered that she didn’t know enough about it to comment or recommend it’s use.
I know that Garry Logan Chemist will not sell homeopathy as he says it is nonsense and does not do as claimed.
On Web 16-Sep-2015 I went to two pharmacies in the Hillcrest suburb of Hamilton.
The Hillcrest Pharmacy had no homeopathic remedies.
Master Ave Pharmacy was different story. I went there at 12:30 pm and spoke with Paula, who worked there as a herbalist. She recommended Naturo Pharm Travel Remedy. When I asked how it works she said “It brings the body back into homeostasis”. When I asked whether it actually worked she said she “Was on the fence about whether homeopathy really works. But I have had a number of people tell me it really helped.”
Where: Uni Pharmacy, Canterbury University, Ilam, Christchurch
When: 2:00pm 16/014
The pharmacy stocked 6 Naturo Pharm Homeopathic products.
When asked, the assistant had little knowledge or awareness about homeopathy thinking this was instead ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ and directed me to these products instead – clinicians and blackmores.
She Suggested vitamin C or Berocca for a more ‘natural’ cold medicine
Today (16 Sep 2015) I went to Lamb’s Pharmacy & Natural Therapies (173 Karangahape Rd, Auckland). I selected a tube of anti-fungal cream and asked if they had any homoeopathic remedies for the same conditions. The pharmacy assistant showed me two ranges (brands) of homoeopathic remedies that they stocked. She wasn’t aware of any antifungal creams but said she wasn’t an expert and suggested I come back tomorrow when the expert on homoeopathy would be in the shop. She asked another person (who I assumed was the pharmacist) if they had a homoeopathic anti-fungal agent but he was non-committal.
I formed the conclusion that they stocked the homoeopathic items for those who knew which one they wanted but that they didn’t know much about them and weren’t pushing them. The assumption was that they work, for they never said I would be better off sticking to the evidence-based anti-fungal cream.
Looking at one range of homoeopathic remedies (sorry, I didn’t note the name of the brand), I saw one that was labelled “Candida Albicans”. I knew that to be fungal but when I looked at the box, it didn’t say what it was good for, and the assistant didn’t know.
Where: Marslands Family Pharmacy, Cnr Preston Rd and Marshlands Rd, Christchurch
When: 5:00pm 16/09/15
The pharmacy stocked 7 Naturo Pharm Homeopathic products.
When asked, the assistant had little knowledge about homeopathy and referred me to a natural health food shop.
I went to Albany Care Pharmacy at the Albany Megacentre (next door to The Warehouse) searching for Tru2U Cherry juice, a product suitable to help children sleep. http://tru2u.co.nz/
They did not have any and asked me what it was for, I explained that it was for my restless son and was recommended a homeopathic sleep remedy. I didn’t realise that I was purchasing a homeopathic product and realised after opening the bottle that the primary ingredient was alcohol. Given what I know about homeopathy I wasn’t particularly happy with the fact that the only actual ingredient would have been alcohol so I returned the product. They seemed completely baffled by my objection to giving alcohol as a “sleep remedy” to a child.
I went to the Feelgood Pharmacy in Dinsdale, Hamilton today (17th September).
I went in and looked through their “natural health” section, which had a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements, but not any homeopathic remedies. A staff member asked if I needed any help. I said that I was interested in homeopathic remedies. She pointed out the supplements, so I asked about actual homeopathy. She said that they had some rescue remedy (actually a Bach flower remedy) and I said that I would like to see that.
With the rescue remedy there was also the full Naturo Pharm range. I asked if it was good – she said that it was very good. I asked if it was effective – she said that they were all effective and that the store sold a lot of those products. I asked if it was as good as prescription medication. She said that the sleeping aids would not knock you right out, but otherwise they were all superior to prescription medication. I asked why they were superior, she said because they can never do any harm and that many prescription remedies cause liver damage and / or addiction.
I phoned a couple of pharmacies complaining of sinus pain.
At Unichem Hamilton East (14 Beale St) I asked if they had any Kali-bichromicum (as suggested by mothering.com). The staff member who answered said that they didn’t stock that product, but I could find it at Health 2000. I asked if there was anything else that she could suggest. She suggested Marshmellow, which she said was as effective as a prescription medication (the marshmallow was a triple strength preparation) and that it worked by suppressing the production of mucus. It was late in the conversation that I realised that this was a herbal remedy, not homoeopathic.
Pharmacy 547 ( 533 Grey St, Hamilton East) said that they do not stock any homeopathic remedies because there is no evidence that they work.
At the Hillcrest Healthcare Pharmacy (153 Cambridge Rd, Hamilton), Julie said that they don’t stock any homeopathic remedies for sinus pain, but could order them in. When asked if they were as effective, she said that it has to do with your belief system. She did suggest several conventional medications, and some other alternative medications (e.g Otrivin oil). When asked how the homeopathic remedy that she could order in for me works she said that it would help my body to heal itself.
Erin at Anglesea Clinic Pharmacy (Thackeray St) asked me some pertinent medical questions (other health problems, current medications, asked me to describe the pain) then suggested Go Healthy Decongest. A triple strength preparation, she said that the horseradish would help clear my nose, and the garlic and vitamin C would support my immune system. This is of course herbal, not homeopathic.
Christchurch South City Pharmacy
The product was called Sleep drops
The assistant knew the only active ingredient in it was ethanol. She said she had not been trained in the product but other staff had. She said the people who bought it wanted a natural product.
I talked to a female staff member at Kenepuru pharmacy in early 2014 about the homeopathic products they sold (there were maybe 5 or 10 on display). The staff member told me that these products worked, and that science was starting to show this. She dismissed the idea that they only work as well as placebo, and insisted that they have a real effect.
I asked in Porirua Pharmacy in mid 2014 why they sold homeopathic products – they have quite a range of both homeopathic and herbal remedies on their shelves.
I was told by a staff member from behind the prescription counter that homeopathy works, and that its extensive historical use was evidence of this. I was also told that the number of customers they have buying homeopathic products was testament to its efficacy.
Medical Supply Store
Address: 51/53 George St, Tuakau 2121
Is willing to sell and promote homeopathy. I have had sever talks with the pharmacist about this and he was almost totally ignorant of the subject and thought it had active ingredients. I asked what was in a bottle and he said, whatever it says on the label. He was a very young guy. He also said that its what customers wanted.
All on 18th September 2015 ~5pm
Used to have just Arnica but not any more
Believes it doesn’t work
Suggested Simillimum if I was after homeopathy, but wouldn’t recommend it.
Unichem top of Willis
Had about 20 homeopathic remedies, some mixed with medicines.
I was told that a Weleda remedy would help with a cold.
It was described as different to normal medicine but with a mix of ingredients that would help.
When pressed about whether it works, I was told that it helps if you believe in it.
Life Pharmacy Manners
First I was pointed to a honey pill for a cold, but the person checked and said it probably wasn’t homeopathic. She said she wasn’t sure, but she thought homeopathic was probably different to natural.
I asked about homeopathic sleep drops on the shelf below and was told they definitely work.
UniChem Cuba Mall
I asked if they had anything homeopathic for a cold. The staff member pointed out 2 separate shelves with homeopathy on them.
When asked for details, they grabbed a pharmacist.
The pharmacist told me that the Weleda Cold & Flu remedy would absolutely help with a cold, and with flu symptoms as well. He said that I should take a large initial dose that would help me recover quicker.
Address: Unichem 3 Pilgrim Pl, Sydenham, Christchurch 8011
Talked to one guy there and asked him three questions:
Do you sell Homeopathy?
He said they did and showed me where they stock 6 Weleda products, 3 x arnica producst and 3 others. Weleda was the only brand of Homeopathy they sold.
Does Unichem inform you about how to give advice on homeopathy products?
He told me Unichem does not give any advice on Homeopathy products.
What do you think about Homeopathy products?
He told me he was aware that there is no evidence for the efficacy of Homeopathy and that he tells people that if asked. He also said he has no problem with recommending the Weleda products to customers
So my general feeling was that he was ‘on the fence’ about homeopathy. probably due to never seriously looking into it. But also because he may have seen a lot of people happy to purchase it.
This shop had a really tiny selection of homeopathy and it was tucked right away in an obscure corner (maybe because whoever arranges the stock knows its all BS and does their best to curb sales 🙂 But they still sell it.
Where: Life Pharmacy, The Palms Shopping Centre, Shirley, Christchurch
When: 12:30pm 19/09/15
The pharmacy stocked 4 Naturo Pharm Homeopathic products on its shelves.
When asked, the assistant had to ask the Pharmacist as she didn’t know what homeopathy was.
When she returned she said “we don’t stock that here”
Unichem Pharmacy Tower Junction Christchurch
They had two types of homeopathic sleep drops on the shelf that I could see.
A staff member came over to serve me and I asked her why they were selling them. She said because they were natural, I asked her if she knew what was in them or how they worked. She said she would get her manager. The manager said they hadnt had training on them. I asked her why they stocked them and she replied that it was unichem policy and even if she didnt order them they would get sent to her, she didnt have a choice.
One of the products showed lots of ingredients in it, but (should have worn reading glasses) I am pretty sure they were homeopathic quantities.
I recently went into a pharmacy as I was about to have an operation and wanted advice on what vitamins promoted healing and if there were any supplements that I could take that would aid my recovery.
The lady serving me said that she’d recently had an operation and she’d taken some great things which helped.
She said that Arnica was an absolute must-have, and then proceeded to take me to a section and offer me several bottles of different concoctions, all of which ad 9c or 10c after them, which I recognised as the symbol for incredible amounts of dilution, at which point I left the pharmacy – completely gobsmacked and with my faith in pharmacology quite damaged!
As a store offering science based remedies to medical problems, I think that offering me distilled water as a effective remedy is irresponsible and undermines the credibility of medical science.
The Pharmacy was ProChem pharmacy at 1862 Great North Rd, Avondale 1026.
Life Pharmacy, The Palms, ChCh
No homeopathic medicines in the shop, but there was a mind-boggling array of other “stuff” from plants, minerals, organic things, etc, etc. The staff member said they don’t carry it. However, there was one that was very, very, close the old “Rescue Remedy” a Bach flower remedy. She said that some people found it very good.
Sydenham Pharmacy, South ChCh.
No homeopathic medicines in the shop, and the staff member didn’t really seem to know what I was talking about. Was keen to flog me a Probiotic, for a mere $76 for a 60 day supply.
25 September 2015
Unichem Rototuna, Hamilton
Sleep Support System Sleep Drops for Babies 30mls $39.99
Ingredients (taken from website)
Organic Coconut Glycerine, purified water, ethanol, Corydalis ambigua (Corydalis), Eschscholzia californica (Californian poppy), Humulus lupus (Hops), Lavandula officinalis (Lavender), Matricaria recutita (Chamomile), Passiflora incarnate (Passionflower), Piper methysticum (Kava), Scutellaria baicalensis (Baical Skullcap), Albizia lebbeck (Albizia), Viburnum opulus, (Cramp bark) Zizyphus jujuba (Zyziphus) with Homeopathic Calc phos, Chamomilla, Colocynthis, Kreosotum, Mag phos, combined with flower essences.
Drops are put under the tongue, or close to the tongue and lips, inside the mouth. To support regular sleep, administer 1-2 drops when your baby goes down. Babies can also have 1 drop to reestablish calm. If they wake during the night, your baby can be given another drop each 5 to 10 minutes of awake time until sleep is restored.
Infants sensitive or allergic to any of the ingredients should avoid this product.
There is 0.005grams of dried herb equivalent per 5 drops dose so herb/drug interactions should be impossible. If you are concerned about this possibility please follow the advice of your medical practitioner.
The sales consultant handed me over to a pharmacist
The pharmacist confirmed this was a homeopathic product and then started out by saying they had several mothers that swear by this product. She was quite dubious when making this statement and was checking for how I would respond to that and paused for a second. As I didn’t jump on that particular bandwagon, she then went on to say that to be honest, there was no good science that could support this product.
I went in and asked about homeopathic remedies for a sore stomach/heartburn and asked about alternatives as they all didn’t recommend one. I’ve got no idea whether Homeopathic remedies are offered for it but it seemed like something that they would and wouldn’t cause concern if I didn’t consult a Doctor or left without making a purchase. Besides I’m familiar with the symptoms and conventional medicines (antacids).
Antidote Meridian: 267 George St, Dunedin, 9058 (Meridian Mall)
Very limited selection and didn’t recommend any of it. Asked if I’d used it before (I said no but a friend recommended it) but didn’t discuss whether it worked or offer conventional medicines. She recommended “Health 2000” for a greater selection, really confused why they’re the most supportive of Homeopathy and knew which products were Homeopathic of the stores and yet weren’t profiting from it themselves.
Stock Grade: B
Science Grade: D
Unichem Centre City: 133 Great King St, Dunedin, 9016 (Centre City Shopping Centre)
Had limited stock but more than the other stores, a large stand of “Artemis” teas greeted me at the front of the store, the store assistant recommended these but had no idea what any them were even for, let alone how they claimed to work. But she seemed happy to sell them to me anyway, literally just reading flavours on the box to see if I’d like any of them. Seems like just expensive tea to me. She then gave up on selling the teas and took me over these supplement bottles and recommended one, again no mention of how or whether they work. I’m not even sure if these were Homoeopathic, they looked like normal vitamin pills but had names like “St John’s Wort” so probably some form of “Natural” bullshit.
Stock Grade: D
Science Grade: D
Unichem Knox: 402 George St, North Dunedin, Dunedin 9016
Ironically the two Unichem branches contrasted the most, they didn’t stock Homoeopathic products at, had a “natural” section but completely ignored it, asked about the symptoms and went straight to endorsing the conventional antacids.
Stock Grade: B
Science Grade: A
Albany St Pharmacy: 27 Albany St, Dunedin, New Zealand
The first younger guy had no idea, at first I was concerned when he started turned the older lady and she whispered to him. But she whispered “No”. She still suggested ginger but they didn’t stock Homoeopathic or Natural Products and they again asked about symptoms and took me straight to conventional antacids.
Stock Grade: A
Science Grade: B
I went to the Unichem Pharmacy, 95 Ashby Avenue, Glendowie. They didn’t have many homeopathic products on sale apart from Naturopharm Arnica and a couple of other creams.
When I asked them about evidence that they worked they said that they are honest with customers and say that there is only anecdotal evidence that any of the natural products like supplements work. Then I asked whether they thought it was ethical to sell them and the pharmacist said that it was better that the products were on sale at a Pharmacy rather than a health food shop as the pharmacist can tell the patient when it is necessary to see a doctor rather than take the product wheras at a health food shop staff have no training.
Unichem High Street Lower Hutt
Around 10 homeopathic products on the shelves
I was told that homeopathy would help with a cold, and that it works “holistically”. I was also recommended vitamin C, echinacea and aged garlic to treat the symptoms.
Unichem Lower Hutt
Had about 100 homeopathic remedies under a banner of “Weleda Medicine”
I was told that there’s no chemicals, and instead it’s plant extracts.
Three products were recommended for a cold
I was told it worked for the staff member’s son, better than any other medicine.
I was told that homeopathic echinacea would definitely treat my cold
They said that homeopathy treats the underlying body.
Burns Pharmacy Petone
I was told that homeopathic Weleda Echinacea would help lessen the length of a cold, and that homeopathy helps by boosting the immune system.
The staff member also tried to sell me high dose vitamin C and a Go-Vir supplement.
I was redirected to a local spiritual/natural health store for more range, and told that I would get good advice there.
Only had arnica and Sleep Drops
The staff member was cagey, only saying that sleep drops would help in the “natural way”, and that they would take a while to have an effect.
Petone Countdown Pharmacy
Only had Sleep Drops but told me they don’t work beyond placebo!!!
I have been to several pharmacies in my region and had various responses with regards to the sale of homeopathic products.
Johns Photo Pharmacy and Herbal Dispensary on Cameron Rd in Tauranga promotes itself on these pages
I have discussed the promotion of products in their pharmacy that are supported by evidence based data- (ie homeopathic remedies)- on one occasion the pharmacist (who I suspect was an employee and a new graduate) said that her hands were tied and it was sold to meet the demand of customers.
On another occasion I have noted that the Bureta Pharmacy in Bureta Road doesn’t appear to sell or promote any homeopathic remedies- recently I discussed purchasing a product to assist with my daughters travel sickness and I was recommended active therapeutics/ antihistamines rather than the homeopathic remedy I was recommended at the TravelPharm in Auckland International Airport.
The Central Parade Pharmacy in Mount Maunganui also has a homeopathic/ natural remedies counter, and indeed my own GP has suggested I seek treatment from this pharmacy from a homeopath to deal with hormonal imbalance.