Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I was in a pharmacist’s shop today. Pharmacists like to portray themselves as skilled and highly trained medical professionals, able to give consultations and advice on a wide range of minor medical conditions. This impression is strongly promoted on the web site of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

This impression is however somewhat spoiled when you walk into a pharmacists. The one I went into today was a typical example. Three prominent displays in particular. One was for homeopathic products, and another selling magnetic bracelets. The third was for minoxidil for hair loss, claiming a 90% success rate. In fact a study in the Lancet in 1987 showed only a 10% success rate.

The impression I gained was less of a reputable and ethical medical professional, and more that of a snake oil salesman, peddling his quack wares.

Well pharmacists, you can’t have it both ways. If you want the status of an ethical professional, then you have to show some ethics. And as long as you promote quackery for financial gain then you are no more than jumped up grocers, with all the integrity of Arkwright.


  1. A bit like doctors who get paid QOF bonuses to overdiagnose depression and treat it with drugs that are shown to be no better than placebos?

  2. Or pharmacists who happily accept payment from the same health system for performing a tick box "health check" knowing they can pass anyone with the slightest problem to the local GP.

  3. FWIW the incentive is NOT to diagnose depression as that means you have to do a formal depresion tick box assessemtn and then ANOTHER one in 3 months time... otherwise you LOSE QOF points. Most of us are incentivised NOT to prescribe too. I've spent the last few weeks trying various codes for "stress" rather than depression in th efull knowledge that after a natter and a DNA'd referral to the CPN they ain't coming back for the second one anyway.

  4. Jeez... just looked at my attempt to write "assessment"... seems the dyslexia is playing up again.