Ontario dragoons pharmacists to test naturopaths about real medicines

I’ve mentioned before how Detroit is my hometown. What that means is that I live very near to Canada. In fact, I can go into Windsor pretty much any time I want to, although I don’t do it very often. Lots of Canadians work at the cancer center I work at because it’s only a few miles from the tunnel to Windsor. That’s why I was so disturbed when Ontario proposed letting naturopaths have prescribing privileges. Ultimately, the bill was passed, allowing naturopaths to prescribe actual prescription drugs, although it took three years to hammer out regulations based on the law. Of course, naturopaths continued to lobby for more prescribing rights under the law, thinking that somehow they are capable of prescribing real medications—as opposed to their quack medications—and of being primary care providers.

It’s laughable, of course. Naturopathy, as I’ve described many times before, is a veritable cornucopia of quackery that mixes and matches homeopathy (which is a required part of naturopathy school), traditional Chinese medicine, and a mixture of all sorts of other quackery ranging from applied kinesiology, reflexology, and more. Naturopaths are no more qualified to prescribe real medications used by real doctors than my dog, and at least my dog knows his limitations. Even naturopaths seem to recognize this to some extent. I say this because I’ve seen an e-mail that’s making its rounds among pharmacists in Ontario, one of whom forwarded it to me:

To: Hospital Pharmacists practicing in Ontario

Subject: Recruiting Pharmacists to be Assessors for Naturopathic Doctor Therapeutics Certification Course Oral Exam

The Transitional Council of the College of Naturopaths of Ontario has recommended that Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) need to take a certification course to become more knowledgeable about the evidence-based use of common prescription medications. This course was developed by Drs. Adil Virani and James McCormack from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC and has been given over the last three years to all NDs in BC as part of a certification process for NDs to prescribe certain medications.

The Transitional Council of the College of Naturopaths of Ontario has asked that all NDs practicing in Ontario take this course and pass both a 2.5 hour written exam and complete 3 oral assessments to be certified to practice in Ontario.

For the oral assessment, NDs will be given three cases and the NDs will have to derive and defend a treatment plan, utilizing prescription medications. We are recruiting pharmacists to be assessors of the oral exam process. Pharmacists who were assessors in the BC course found the process to be enjoyable and also that it helped them learn more about the disease states they were examining.

If you agree to be an assessor, you will be provided with a template to follow and any training you need. Your role will be to listen to the NDs rationale for the treatment they have selected, make notes and score the relevant responses to specific questions (which we will provide you with) on the template provided. If you agree, I will put your name on a list and contact you when we have an oral assessment planned and invite you to attend. Easy right???

Here are some more details:

Honorarium: $350/day

Dates: Toronto: Not yet identified. Likely late May 2014and/or Sept 2014 (Location TBD) and every 3-4 months after that.

We require approximately 18 assessors for each oral exam.

Time: 8:30 am – 5 pm (approximately – depends on how many NDs sign up for the exam).

If you are interested and available to participate, please email Adil Virani ([email protected]) by March 30, 2014?

If you have any questions, feel free to call Adil at 604-613-2549.


Adil Virani and James McCormack

Dr. Adil Virani

Director, Lower Mainland Pharmacy Services Professional Practice, Education & Burnaby Hospital Fraser Health | Providence Health Care | Provincial Health Services | Vancouver Coastal Health

Associate Professor

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UBC

Yes, you read that right. Ontario naturopaths are looking for pharmacists to administer oral examinations to naturopaths who wish to prescribe real drugs. It turns out that part of the law allowing naturopathic prescribing mandates this, which is what is required in British Columbia:

Under BC’s legislation and accompanying regulations, naturopaths will not prescribe certain restricted classes of medications, such as antipsychotics and chemotherapy drugs. The regulatory board that governs naturopathic doctors is now finalizing the standards and list of substances that naturopaths will be allowed to prescribe.

But they will first have to meet educational requirements and pass a qualifying examination, says Christoff Kind, president of the British Columbia Naturopathic Association. “The whole thing really is just based on providing for a shared scope of practice model here in BC, which I think is coming across the country,” he says. “Professions that have the training should be allowed to practise to their level of education and expertise.”

So, in other words, naturopaths don’t have the requisite level of education, contrary to their frequent claims, to prescribe real medications. So they have to get it by taking courses and then passing a qualifying examination, which pharmacists in Ontario are being dragooned into service doing the qualifying examinations on all these naturopaths who want to expand their scope of practice beyond what their education supports. Yeah, that’ll work.

I’ve written a lot about “integrative medicine,” whose proponents like to represent it as being the “best of both worlds,” in which science-based medicine is “integrated” with “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM). At least, that’s the direction that it usually happens. Unfortunately, “integrating” pseudoscience with real medicine doesn’t make the real medicine better. It contaminates it with quackery. Who knew that the “integration” could go the other way around, with quacks like naturopaths wanting to “integrate” real medicine into their quackery. I can understand why they want to do it. Their modalities don’t work, by and large; so of course they want to have some real medicine to add to their armamentarium. However, the same problems apply.
integrating real medicine into the quackery seems as though it would make the quackery less quacky, but it won’t. All it will do is to unleash hundreds, if not thousands, of incompetents incompetently trying to administer real medicines to real patients, medicines with real therapeutic effects but also real side effects and adverse events.

No, “integrating” quackery with real medicine never works, regardless of which is being “integrated” with what. It’s far better to stick with one science-based standard.