Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Is Weight Loss Quackery Being Sold By Pharmacists?

A reader sent me the photo up above. It shows at best non-evidence based, at worst completely useless and not necessarily safe weight loss quackery is being prominently sold by placard in at least one Ontario pharmacy at their pickup counter.

How is this legal?

The short answer is that it's legal because Health Canada just doesn't care. They don't care that pharmacy shelves are filled with nonsense that not only wastes their money, but also potentially their health as they may supplant physician visits and medical care for the promises festooned on the side of a bottle.

But do pharmacists care? In this case do they care that my reader thinks customers will take the promotion of Dr. Oz miracle pills at their pickup counter to be a professional endorsement by the pharmacists themselves?

Pharmacists are highly educated health professionals and here in Ontario (where the photo up above was taken), they're regulated by the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP), and represented in Canada by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

Peeking at the OCP website I came across their Model Standards of Care document and in it, this statement,
"23. recommend non-prescription drug therapy only having collected and interpreted patient information to ensure that:

• there are no significant drug interactions or contra-indications, and
• the medication is the most appropriate in view of patient characteristics, signs and symptoms, other conditions and medications, and
• the dose and instructions for use of the medication are correct
But given that there is no dose (no human trials) how could any amount of it ever be considered "appropriate"?

And what of the CPhA?

While they don't have the same sort of Standards of Care document, they do have one on Direct-To-Consumer Advertising and in it they note,
"the information available to patients must be objective, accurate and comprehensive."
Does that sign up above suggest objectivity, accuracy and comprehensiveness?

I know I have pharmacists who read my blog. Given the ability to comment anonymously, would love it if you might weigh in on how you feel selling products that have no scientific basis whatsoever behind their use and whether or not you feel it challenges your ethics or your College's codes of conduct.