Why pharmacists should not sell homeopathic medicines

Posted 27 July 2015

Mr Scott Gavura, a Canadian pharmacist, has written an article criticising Canadian pharmacists for stocking homeopathic medicines alongside conventional medicines.

We have a similar situation here in South Africa.

Mr Gavura ends his article with this powerful admonition: “Pharmacists ought to know better, and they ought to do better. It’s time for the profession to act in the interests of patients. Homeopathy has no place in today’s pharmacy practice.”

The same applies to South African pharmacists.

You can read the full article at:

Mr Gavura also has a facebook page worth looking at:

It should be noted that in South Africa, according to the standards of “Good Pharmacy Practice” (GPP) published by the South African Pharmacy Council, pharmacists  “. . . must not purchase, sell or supply any medicinal product where the pharmacist has any reason to doubt its safety, quality or efficacy.”

Clearly those South African pharmacists who do sell homeopathic products in their pharmacies are not abiding by the rules of good pharmacy practice. Rather, as Gavura states, “[q]uestions have been raised worldwide [including in South Africa] about the ethics of pharmacists and pharmacies selling homeopathy to consumers who may not realize what they’re buying.”



This article is not primarily about whether homeopathy works or not, but about the ethics of pharmacists and pharmacies stocking and supporting the selling of homeopathic products.

The author raises a number of novel perspectives which are thought-provoking (and also in a wider context of unproven medicines, including other CAMS), e.g.:

“I’ve argued at length that the sale in pharmacies give homeopathy the perception of scientific legitimacy, and that this approach is fundamentally unethical”

“Selling placebos alongside medicine violates patient autonomy, reflecting a form of medical paternalism (or perhaps crass commercialism) that retail pharmacists need to eliminate if they want to be truly accepted as partners in the health care team”.

“This is the paradox of alternative medicine; by understanding, we render the treatment ineffective. Yet by concealing medical knowledge, we return to a dangerous, medieval-like approach to healthcare. It is for this reason why alternative medicine is flawed.”

These quotes are somewhat out of context of the author’s arguments so it is worth reading the article posted to Science Based Pharmacy to appreciate his perspective.

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