Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog

By John Dwyer

Modern pharmacology is among the most rigorous of sciences. After all, the health of millions depends on pharmacologists getting it right, but what has happened to those who dispense those products – the men and woman of modern pharmacy?

John Dwyer, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW, is an Immunologist and medical educator with a long history of involvement in efforts to protect the public from health care fraud. He is a co-founder of Friends of Science in Medicine.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In my neighbourhood pharmacy, a large window display explains the amazing benefits of a “DETOX” preparation that will cleanse all the impurities from your body and give you a fresh start “for a healthier you”. Previous marketing there assured arthritis sufferers (pictured in a wheelchair) that glucosamine, combined with chondroitin, would soon have them back on the golf course despite abundant evidence that such preparations have no more than placebo value.

Fraudulent claims for this or that product providing remarkable weight loss also commonly grace these windows. This pharmacy provides free consultations with a visiting iridologist on Tuesday mornings.

How could this be? Are not the pharmacists involved graduates of a science-based program emphasising critical thinking and the need for an evidence-based approach to therapeutics? Well, yes, but you would have to conclude that commercial opportunism has these university principles safely obscured behind that shelf sagging under the weight of vitamin preparations promising to neutralise an unhealthy lifestyle.

A few years ago I shared presentations to a Pharmacy Guild meeting with a captain of the “alternative and complementary” medicines industry. He urged the assembled pharmacists to “capitalise on consumer sentiment”. He advised on store layout and even advocated a division so that all “alternative...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.