Survey finds one-third of Australian pharmacists are recommending unproven therapies

From The Guardian: Nearly one third of pharmacists are recommending complementary and alternative medicines with little-to-no evidence for their efficacy, including useless homeopathic products and potentially harmful herbal products. The finding comes from a Choice survey of 240 pharmacies including Priceline, Chemist Warehouse and Terry White. Mystery shoppers were sent in to speak to a pharmacist at the prescription dispensing counter and ask for advice about feeling stressed. Three per cent of the pharmacists recommended…

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Towards more effective supplement regulation in Canada

Unsubstantiated claims for natural health products could be a thing of the past in Canada. I suppose I owe Health Canada some thanks. It was Health Canada’s lackadaisical  regulation of dietary supplements and natural health products that turned me from a “shruggie” pharmacist into one that started advocating, publicly, for putting consumers’ interests ahead of those of supplement manufacturers. While health regulations are seemingly created to protect consumers, Health Canada has  consistently given manufacturers the…

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Should you try a “natural alternative” before medication?

Natural remedies are popular. But are they an appropriate substitute for medication? The idea of taking medication can be frightening. And as consumers and patients that want to make our own informed health decisions, it’s understandable and even appropriate to question our physicians when they recommend drug treatments. We need to understand the rationale for any medication that’s recommended or prescribed, the benefits of therapy, the side effects, and if there are any other approaches…

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Is a profit-first philosophy in retail pharmacy compromising working conditions and patient care?

The tension between the “business of pharmacy” and the professional responsibilities of pharmacists, as health care professionals, has always been present in retail (“community”) pharmacy practice.  For much of the past several decades, pharmacies have generally been owned by pharmacists, elevating pharmacy ethics and professional responsibilities to the level of the owner. But the era of the independent pharmacist-owner-operated pharmacy is disappearing, and the era of the massive pharmacy chain is upon us. In the United…

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Science-Based Medicine in New York City!

A day of Science-Based Medicine, a weekend of science and skepticism If you’re interested in science, skepticism and medicine, then NECSS, the NorthEast Conference on Science and Skepticism, is the conference for you. NECSS will be held May 12-15 in New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The entire program is available schedule here. The conference will welcome over 400 people and include panels, presentations and performances. Included in the program will be…

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Statins for everyone?

Should you take a statin to prevent heart disease? Preventing a disease, before it occurs, seems intuitively obvious. But when it comes to taking medicine to prevent a disease before it occurs, people tend to be much less comfortable. Not only are there the concerns about the “medicalization” of healthy people, there are good questions about benefits, risks (like side effects), and costs. Cardiovascular disease will kill many of us, so there’s been decades of…

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The questionable ethics of selling complementary and alternative medicine

Legal to sell, yes. But ethical to sell? Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is no longer fringe, and anything but the mom-and-pop image that manufacturers carefully craft. CAM is big business, and most Americans today take some sort of supplement. The impetus for my blogging (and tilting at CAM windmills) emerged from years spent working in a pharmacy with a heavy reliance on CAM sales. If it was unorthodox, this store probably sold it. Conventional…

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Are pharmacy-based genome tests credible and useful?

Is genomic testing as useful as pharmacies claim it can be? Despite science’s ability to develop sophisticated and targeted new drugs, predicting the effect of a drug in an individual is still maddeningly difficult. Not every drug works for everyone that takes it. Similarly, the very same drug can be well tolerated in some, but can cause intolerable side effects in others. So-called “targeted therapies” were supposed to improve our accuracy, by focusing on specific…

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Is it ethical to market complementary and alternative medicines?

Very excited to announce that a paper I collaborated on with Dr. Chris MacDonald has now been published in the peer-reviewed journal Bioethics, as part of a series on complementary and alternative medicine.  It’s also open access (for now): Abstract: Is it ethical to market complementary and alternative medicines? Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are medical products and services outside the mainstream of medical practice. But they are not just medicines (or supposed medicines) offered…

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What’s the best detox or cleanse?

With 2016 upon us, it’s finally time get serious about your health. You’re resolving to eat better and exercise more. But first, you need to reset your body – and purge yourself of all of your lifestyle and dietary overindulgences. But how? The options seem limitless, and everyone has advice: There’s Dr. Oz, Gwyneth, and even your favourite Kardashian has advice: They’re all telling you how it’s essential to “detox”, “cleanse” and “flush” away all…

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