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South African Pharmacy Council absolves substantiators

Posted 01 June 2010

In brief:

Complaint: Beverley Summers PhD erroneously substantiated Homemark products Peel Away the Pounds and Slim Coffee to the detriment of consumers.

Result: Complaint dismissed as the SAPC (a science-based statutory council) did not want to override any decision of the ASA (an industry-based, non-scientific, non-statutory “authority”). The SAPC erroneously refers to the Final Appeal Committee of the ASA as an “independent judicial tribunal” — possibly on the basis that Judge Mervyn King convenes the Final Appeal Committee.

Unintended consequences: the SAPC decision creates a precedent which allows pharmacists to substantiate claims made for unregistered and unregulated products where there is insufficient evidence for the claims to be made. The SAPC decision therefore places consumers at risk of harm, financially and possibly even healthwise.

I laid a complaint in May 2009 against the pharmacist Dr Beverley Summers with the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) regarding Dr Summers’ substantiation of the Homemark Products, Peel Away the Pounds, Slim Coffee (both banned in the USA and regarded as scams), and her continuing substantiation of Homemark products using inadequate scientific standards. 

I argued among other other:
“The GPP rules frequently and repeatedly state that in the provision of any service a pharmacist must “always act in the best interest of the patient”. I believe it is not in the best interest of any patient for a pharmacist to erroneously substantiate advertising claims which as a result may lead to misleading advertising and consequently possible adverse effects (including financial) for the patient. I would submit that by erroneously substantiating the advertising claims of certain products, Dr Summers has contravened this most fundamental of all GPP rules.” 

I asked for the SAPC to take action.

Clearly this turned out to be a major hot-potato. Read how the SAPC dismissed the complaint and make up your own mind – does the Pharmacy Council care for consumers?

I am not only disappointed but can truthfully say I am astounded by the Council abrogating its responsibility and therefore directly allowing this pharmacist to continue substantiating scam products to the public. I am sure that the SAPC is fully aware that the ASA do not have the competence to decide on whether her substantiation or my scientific arguments have more merit. Indeed, she argued in her last submission that I am not an expert and therefore my arguments have no merit when compared to hers.

 


 

I stated further:

“The vision of the South African Pharmacy Council (“Council”), in serving the public interest and in terms of its statutory obligation, is to ensure that pharmaceutical services are the best to meet the health care needs of the people.

“The vital element in this vision is the commitment of the pharmacy profession to promote excellence in practice for the benefit of those they serve. The public and other professions will judge the pharmacy profession on how that commitment is translated into the practice they observe.” (p1/233)

Rules 22 and 23 state:
22. The performance by a pharmacist of professional acts for which he (sic) is inadequately trained or insufficiently experienced.
23. The sale or promotion of the sale of medicine in any manner which has its aim or may be interpreted or regarded as having as its aim, the promotion of the misuse or abuse or detrimental or injudicious or unsafe use of medicine.

Read my complaint to the SAPC here

Oh, since my complaint was submitted to the SAPC, Dr Summers substantiated the new Homemark Slim Coffee formulation, which the European Food Standards Authority ruled 5-0 against the weight loss and other claims being made for the the main ingredient, finding “that the publications submitted in support of the claims failed to establish a cause and effect relationship between the ingredient and the claimed benefit.”!

Seems like all this is irrelevant.


The SAPC Council’s decision

 

Your Ref:  Our Ref:   Date:
KC8645/D Hoffmann     1 June 2010

Dear Dr Steinman

REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION INTO UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT: DR BEVERLEY SUMMERS

1.       We refer to the abovementioned matter and in particular your complaint dated 18 May 2009 together with other information supplied to the Office of the Registrar.

2.       We confirm that the abovementioned complaint was reviewed by the Committee of Preliminary Investigations (CPI) on 28 April 2010, where the CPI recommended that no further action be taken against Dr Summers. We further confirm that the recommendation of the CPI was reviewed by the South African Pharmacy Council at its Council meeting held on 26 and 27 May 2010, where the Council upheld the recommendation of the CPI.

3.       We confirm that Council resolved that –

i.        Where a pharmacist appears before an independent judicial tribunal, such as the Advertising Standards Authority, as an expert and provides evidence to such tribunal, Council should not review such evidence on the basis of misconduct;

ii.       It is up to and within the jurisdiction of such independent tribunal as to whether to accept or reject such expert evidence as provided by the pharmacist;

iii.        The onus rests on the other party in such matters before such tribunal to argue whether such expert evidence should be accepted or rejected by such tribunal;

iv.     Council has no right to interfere with the independence of such tribunal and its findings in terms of expert evidence; and

v.      The potential would be created that pharmacists would become reluctant to provide expert evidence to independent tribunals and in a court of law should Council adjudicate such matters in terms of unprofessional conduct.

4.       We hereby confirm that our file has been closed in this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Debbie Hoffmann

senior manager: legal services & professional conduct

obo     Mr. ta masango
           registrar

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