Complementary therapies for pharmacists


  • Trevor N. Johnson

    1. Academic Unit of Molecular Pharmacology and Pharmacogenetics, Division of Clinical Sciences, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield S10 2JF
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Dr Trevor N. Johnson, Academic Unit of Molecular Pharmacology and Pharmacogenetics, Division of Clinical Sciences, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield S10 2JF.

by StevenKayne . Published by Pharmaceutical Press , 2001 . Pages 448 , Price £24.95 , ISBN 0-853-69430-3 .

I must admit that it was with some trepidation that I undertook to review this book being a sceptic when it comes to many of the complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies. However, regardless of one's personal position there is no denying the enormous increase in the public's demand for CAM treatments. Consequently, healthcare practitioners and in this case pharmacists are being increasingly expected to have a working knowledge of CAM and its interface with orthodox medicine.

Despite the author's background in homeopathy he reviews both the positive and negative trial results of this complementary approach and admits ‘a great deal more work is necessary to prove the efficacy of homeopathy to the satisfaction of sceptical colleagues’. Indeed, this book was not written with a view to providing irrefutable evidence for CAM but to provide a balanced overview for the practicing pharmacist, and to this end it is a great success.

The book is divided into four parts:

  • • General aspects of CAM. This section deals with the classification of CAM, the approach to healing, the demand for CAM, research into CAM and integrating CAM into the UK healthcare system. This section sets the scene for more detailed consideration of the individual therapies.
  • • Therapies most appropriate to pharmacy with guidance on how they can be integrated into practice including homeopathy and anthroposophy, medical herbalism, aromatherapy and flower remedy therapy.
  • • Ethnic traditional therapies including Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. One of the least attractive treatment regimens described in this section is an ayurvedic treatment regimen known as pancha karma and involves therapeutic vomiting, purgation, enemas, nasal aspiration of herbs and therapeutic release of toxic blood.
  • • Other CAM therapies about which pharmacists may be asked. For example, naturopathy, diagnostic therapies (iridology, kinesiology), manual therapies (chiropractic, massage, osteopathy and reflexology) and mind and body therapies (colour, crystal and music).

Each complementary approach is defined, followed by sections on its history, theory, practice, evidence of effectiveness and safety. The adverse effects of each therapy are described and where applicable drug interactions highlighted. Whilst the drug interactions of some herbal preparations such as St John's Wort are well known, potential interactions involving other CAM therapies are less well defined, e.g. aromatherapy oils and warfarin. These obviously warrant further study.

Overall, this book is well researched, written in a very readable style and presented in a logical sequence. Each chapter is well referenced. Whilst being written for the practising pharmacist this book provides a useful guide for anyone with an interest in CAM therapies. Like myself, on reading this book you may still be unconvinced regarding the effectiveness of many of the complementary treatments described but you will have a good overview of the subject.