Playing fast and loose with your credibility

by Mark Hassed

On any list of trusted professions, I’m sure that pharmacists would feature prominently. They dispense our medications and are always behind the counter ready to offer advice when needed.

But, what do you do when you find that your local pharmacy is promoting a treatment that you know to be ineffective at best, and damaging at worst?

On a recent visit to my neighbourhood pharmacy there was a large poster by the counter promoting ear candling. I asked the pharmacy assistant if I could talk with the pharmacist.

(click to enlarge)

“Hi, you and I both know that ear candling is not evidence-based,” I said to the pharmacist. “How do I know if I can trust any of your advice if you are happy to promote non evidence-based treatments?”

“I’m not really promoting it. It’s just a poster.” came the reply from the pharmacist.

Pretty lame reply, I thought. After a bit more back and forth I realised that I was getting nowhere so I gave up.

The best way of protesting that I could think of was to stop shopping at that particular pharmacy. Maybe as consumers it is the most powerful message we can send.

Trouble is, it is so hard to find a pharmacy where they don’t sell non evidence-based products. Almost all pharmacies stock homeopathic remedies and “Vegan Ear Candles”.

That makes it hard to know who to trust.

3 Responses to Playing fast and loose with your credibility

  1. timmendham says:

    Name and shame?

  2. keng2 says:

    Two comments:
    (1) This is about pharmacies, not pharmacists. There’s a subtle difference. Many pharmacists hate the woo but have to put up with it to stay employed, or to compete with the mega-barn up the road. The system is stacked against them, much like the TGA complaints system is stacked in favour of the over-the-counter drug marketers.
    (2) A few years ago Vic Skeptics Committee had the idea of seeking out and publicising pharmacies that operated ethically. It didn’t get very far, but it did result in me adopting a small local pharmacy as suggested above by Mark Hassed.

  3. keng2 says:

    Readers might find it instructive to see https://vicskeptics.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/pharmacy-guild-of-australias-deal-with-blackmores/ from 2011. In particular, read the comments. (And sing-along to “Marching through Georgia” while you’re there :)

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