Yesterday, I emailed the Boots customer care address, about homoeopathic products. I did this because I discovered that Boots was selling homoeopathic remedies in their stores in Dublin. The store that I visited was in the Jervis Street shopping centre, and it had prominent displays outside promoting the pharmaceutical advice and products available. I was pretty shocked, then, to find that they were selling useless sugar pills alongside actual effective medication. I was shocked enough that I was prompted to write a quick note, as follows:
To whom it may concern:
On visiting a local Boots store over the weekend, I was shocked and horrified to discover homoeopathic remedies for sale in the store (Jervis Shopping Centre branch). This particular store had a heavy emphasis on the pharmacy side of the business in its advertising, so I would not have expected it to also be selling unproven and essentially fake medicine to people, alongside useful drugs.
Homoeopathic remedies contain no actual substance other than sugar pills and/or water. They are diluted beyond the point where one molecule of the original substance can be in the final product, and that is scientifically proven. I cannot understand, therefore, why you would choose to sell such products alongside legitimate medicines.
On a personal note, I’m extremely disappointed to find that a store which I used to enjoy shopping in is continuing to sell these products.
Today, I received a reply from Boots:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your concerns over the retail of Homeopathic and Alternative remedies.
At Boots we take our responsibilities as the leading Pharmacy-led Health & Beauty retailer in the UK very seriously and as part of this we?re [sic] committed to providing our customers with a wide range of healthcare products to suit their individual needs. We know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want.
Our Pharmacists are trained healthcare professionals and are on hand to offer advice on the safe use of complementary medicines. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain issues guidance to pharmacists on the correct selling of homoeopathy, which our pharmacists adhere to. We would support the call for scientific research and evidence gathering on the efficacy of homoeopathic medicines as this would help our patients and customers make informed choices about using homoeopathic medicines
We take the concerns of all of our customers very seriously and we thank you for the time you have taken to give us this feedback. Please be assured that I have shared your comments with our Healthcare and Pharmacy teams.
Boots Customer Care
I would hope that, in the light of the recent 10.23 demonstrations, Boots would be receiving many emails complaining about their sale of homoeopathic products, so I expect that the reply is a standardised form letter by now. What their letter says is that, even if they are aware that the products are useless and pointless, they believe people want to buy them, and so they have no problem selling them. I do have a problem with a brand that is so associated with healthcare selling products which are not only ineffective, but which could well damage people if taken instead of conventional medicine when sick.
It is my opinion that it’s not enough to merely support the call for research while also profiting from the sale of useless pills and tinctures. Hundreds of studies have already been done on a wide range of homoeopathic remedies, and the results are almost unilaterally negative. Why ignore those studies in favour of future research, when the evidence is already there? The answer: profit.
I think it’s dangerous and misleading for a healthcare professional to recommend or advise on the use of homoeopathic remedies, as it lends credibility to a completely incredulous field. The only advice that “trained healthcare professionals” should give about homoeopathic remedies is “don’t take them”.
So, with the above in mind, I replied to Boots:
Thank you for your prompt reply.
My concern is precisely that Boots is considered a leading pharmacy, and that many people would turn to staff in store for health advice. If the advice given to them includes advice about homoeopathic remedies, then it undermines the advice that is being given.
Homoeopathic remedies contain no active ingredients whatsoever. Most remedies are sold at 30C dilution, which equates to 10 to the power of 60 dilution, or 1 part of the molecule in 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 parts of water. This means, essentially, that it is physically impossible for even a single molecule of the original substance to be present in the final product. What you are selling, as medicine, is essentially sugar pills with drops of water added. When people eschew conventional medicine in favour of homoeopathic remedies, there can be disastrous consequences. I refer you, for example, to the recent case of Thomas, Manju, and Gloria Sam.Gloria Sam was an infant who suffered from severe eczema. Rather than use the conventional medicine and creams which were recommended by their healthcare professional, her parents, Thomas and Manju Sam, chose to turn to a homoeopathic healthcare professional. As a result, Gloria’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly. By the time the child was seen by a conventional medical professional, a doctor she was so ill that they had to immediately put her on morphine simply to manage the pain. Due to systemic infections, and a total lack of legitimate care, she died after 3 days in the hospital. This is a death that could have easily been prevented had the parents followed the advice of their healthcare professional. This case is just an example of the kind of thing that will continue to happen for as long as large institutions, such as Boots, are seen to support homoeopathy as a legitimate and effective choice when it comes to dealing with health problems.Unless your healthcare professionals are informing people that no active ingredients are present in the homoeopathic remedies, and that they will have no effect on their health, then you are not helping them to make informed choices. Making an informed choice can only happen when all of the information laid out is correct.
I implore you to reconsider your support of homoeopathic medicine, to examine the evidence which has already shown that these medicines are ineffective, and to help your customers make a truly informed choice.
February 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm
I will say that when I was working in Boots on the healthcare counter I, and no one else there, ever recommended homoeopathic remedies instead of conventional medicine. The pharmacists did not either and would always try their best to make sure that people took the correct medicine for their condition. I think it needs to be remembered that Boots is also a retailer, not just a drug outlet, and thus their sales are based upon the demands of customers. They dont sell many things, usually specialist medicines, as their is not the market for them beyond the odd customer once every couple of months. They also sell skin care products which have no proof that they work like anti wrinkle, skin regeneration and anti cellulite creams. People wish to believe that these things work and once a trained professional does not tell them it definitively does there is little harm to them selling what people want. As I said pharmacists that I worked with anyway never said homoeopathic remedies work and thus I dont see the problem with them being sold. If someone asks them, they will tell them but the problem is most people believe what they want regardless of medical advice.
February 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm
That’s true, they do sell a lot of things. My objection partly lies with the fact that they don’t just sell them, they even make them. There are Boots brand homoeopathic remedies right there on the shelf, bold as brass. I object to the fact that they make them and sell them, because it’s all complete rubbish, and unlike a skin cream, if someone neglects proper medicine to take homoeopathic pills, they could really endanger themselves (as opposed to just being a bit more wrinkly).
Part of the campaign is to complain at Boots for making and selling complete rubbish, but the other part is to raise awareness so that, hopefully, more people will see the medicines for what they are (i.e. rubbish) and stop buying them.
February 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm
“We know that many people [b]believe[/b] in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want.”
Yep. That would be the key word right there. I would also argue they believe in their profit margin.
I wouldnt nesscarily have so much of a problem as Tesco or the likes selling them. They dont claim to be legititmate dispensers of prescribed medication.By selling in a pharmacy though it is giving the homoeopathic stuff authority by association. ie. “If they sell it in a pharmacy it must be good”. I would suspect that Boots head office knows this and can hide behind the defence of “Well we dont actually make any claims about this stuff”.