Back in the firing line

Pharmacy groups under fire from GP critic after ABC program attacks supplement sales

A prominent GP critic of community pharmacy has gone public to support the ABC’s Background Briefing program and its criticism of the sales of vitamins and supplements.

As reported in AJP Daily yesterday ABC reporter Ann Arnold said in the report that “at a time when pharmacy is fighting a turf war with doctors, with pharmacists wanting to offer more clinical services, their pitch to be taken seriously as health professionals is at risk”.

The report, entitled ‘Can you trust your pharmacist?’ was broadcast on Radio National on Sunday 13 March.

Dr Evan Ackermann, deputy chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) national quality committee said in response to the broadcast that: “the pharmacy profession must seriously look at professional standards of retail pharmacy. Integrity needs restoring”.

A strong critic of many aspects of community pharmacy, Dr Ackermann strongly endorsed the show’s message that there was “at best, mixed evidence for many of these products”.

“Some pills and supplements have never been independently tested, even to check their contents,” the report claimed.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration takes manufacturers at their word when it comes to ingredients. Follow up checks are only completed in some cases.”

Dr Ackermann went on to criticise the links between pharmacy professional bodies and complementary medicine manufacturers.

Pointing to the PSAs recently launched Health Destination Pharmacy concept, Dr Ackermann said “PSA need to come clean and explain how drug companies (including Blackmores) benefit from this new arrangement”.

“Pharmacy needs to come clean on associations with drug companies & CAM therapies or Govt should formally investigate,” he said in a post on twitter.

On its website information about the concept PSA said “eight companies with a strong commitment to the future of pharmacy have joined PSA in the implementation phase of the Health Destination Pharmacy project”.

These included Blackmores, as well as pharmaceutical companies Pifzer, Bayer and RB, and companies including NAB Health.

Responding to the comments, Dr Lance Emerson, PSA national CEO said “the focus of the PSA’s Health Destination Pharmacy program is to help pharmacists work more closely with local healthcare providers”.

“The support by industry partners is to assist in moving the program beyond the test stage to scaling up the program – so that consumers can experience the full impact of the program. The partners support the program because they support improved outcomes for consumers,” he said.

“We will continue to work with those partners that support evidence-based program such as the Health Destination Pharmacy program – which has been shown to promote participation and collaboration with local healthcare practitioners, especially GPs”.

In answer to its own question, posed in the episode’s title, Background Briefing did remind listeners that pharmacists had recently been again voted as Australia’s most trusted profession.


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  1. Robert

    Cor. What did we do! Can’t see many attacks re misdiagnosis, inappropriate prescribing and all the other stuff that happens. Then we read of prescribing and administration of known placebos by qualified medical practitioners to (hopefully) achieve a patient response; let alone the placebo effect when trialing new products. It is amazing how authoritative perception can be.

  2. worried

    8.1 million Australians or 42% of the population bought vitamin supplements in the last 6 months.
    I don’t think Pharmacists caused this really…….. do you honestly think so?

  3. Kitty

    I do apologise for the way TGA regulate supplements. I’ll make sure to increase their funding tomorrow so the AMA will be happy. Amen.

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