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Opinion: Don't feed the trolls


Opinion: Don't feed the trolls

An anonymous columnist at Pulse magazine has taken a swipe at pharmacists. Rather than being outraged, it should be treated with the disdain it deserves, says PM deputy editor Arthur Walsh

How are you feeling today? Tired? Stressed? Perhaps — and this is just an idea — you’re smarting from the “uncomfortable tension of pitching for scientific credibility while running a shop”?

The infamous Pulse columnist Dr Tony Copperfield certainly thinks you are and he’s not afraid to say so (but only behind the safety of a pen name).

Whoever Dr Copperfield is, he appears to be able to dismiss the role of community pharmacists with such remarkable ease. In a 344- word screed published earlier this month, he writes that pharmacists’ “main function” is “to flog placebos, leave me with surplus flu vaccines and tell patients to see their GP for antibiotics when they don’t really need them”. That last bit in particular seems very odd, given the huge amount of work going on in pharmacies to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Mean spirited

This is dismal, mean spirited stuff and totally inaccurate. For one thing, the Great Doctor manages to miss out the crucial role pharmacies have played during the pandemic, not just in Britain but across Europe.

Remind me which healthcare providers were seeing patients without an appointment when high streets were shuttered and Covid panic was at its peak?


It is no wonder community pharmacists got worked up. But it is also worth remembering that the piece is designed precisely to inflame those passions, and as such perhaps warrants breezy disdain rather than outrage.

Some of the responses from the pharmacy sector have seemed a bit knee-jerk to me. I don’t think it was necessary for the official RPS Twitter account to issue a rebuttal to an anonymous column, for instance. Every so often some idiot comes along to say what Dr Copperfield did, or something like it, and a professional body ought to have enough sense to see it for what it is.

The smartest response I’ve seen to the Pulse article has come from newly appointed RPS English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind, who saw opportunity amid the outrage. Govind called for a roundtable between the RPS, the RCGP and other royal colleges to help the primary care professions understand one another’s perspectives and how they can work together in a rapidly changing healthcare landscape.

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