Australian medical activists have called upon pharmacists to stop selling ear candles and other products of dubious therapeutic value.
Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health and well-being by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. According to medical researchers, it is both dangerous and ineffective. Claims that the practice removes earwax have been thoroughly debunked.
AdvertisementEar candles don't and can never work in removing wax, studies have shown. Besides they can be dangerous too.
Experts say that for most people, the wax in their ears is not a problem. A good ear is like a good oven -- and performs its own self-cleaning. So the best advice for most people is to just leave your ears alone. All the same ear candles are popular.
In an open letter to pharmacists, the Australian Skeptics have said, "There are reports of serious injuries from them including temporary hearing loss, burns, ear canals blocked by dripping wax and punctured ear drums.1 Health Canada has banned them in Canada.2
The Australian Skeptics is a non-profit organisation that investigates paranormal and pseudoscientific claims using scientific methodologies.
Even the first professor of alternative and complementary medicine at Exeter University, Edzard Ernst, called for them to be banned.3 Despite this, many Australian pharmacies are selling them, their letter states.
Iridology is supposed to diagnose the dysfunction of internal organs via the markings on the iris. There is no evidence that it works but some pharmacies promote the fact that customers can get "readings" in their stores.
What next, will you start selling cigarettes? Like the supermarkets, who you do not want to be allowed to sell pharmaceuticals because they do not have qualified staff? What standards do you set for yourselves for staff? ask the Skeptics.
You sell a growing number of products for which there is little or no scientific evidence of efficacy. Calling them "alternative" does not make them work. Examples include homeopathic preparations, magnetic pain relief devices, detox programmes, dodgy weight loss products and ear candles. Such products commonly appear in a "Natural Medicine" section of pharmacies but are sometimes displayed alongside real medicines whose benefits are scientifically proven, the letter says.
"We see a growing trend of so-called "practitioners" with little or no scientific training being brought in as "consultants" including iridologists, homeopaths and naturopaths.
"Your customers rely on you and anyone in a professional capacity within your store to provide sound medical advice and products. We fear that in some cases they are receiving what amounts to little more than magical sugar pills and spurious health advice.
"Pharmacies need to make a profit, but this should not be done through quack products and bad advice. To regain the status a pharmacy should have - a place to get sound advice and effective medicine, supported by scientific and clinical evidence - we implore our pharmacists to stick to worthy products sold by knowledgeable staff."