CMs aren’t going away, so the Guild welcomes measures to keep consumers informed about their efficacy, says David Quilty
Monday’s Four Corners program on complementary medicines and CHOICE’s pharmacy ‘shadow shop’ highlight the important role of community pharmacy in advising patients on all aspects of medicines, including complementary medicines, Guild Executive Director David Quilty writes in Forefront.
“At the Guild we believe it is essential that consumers have access to objective, informed advice about complementary medicines, and by far the best place to obtain that advice is at a community pharmacy,” Mr Quilty says.
“A range of complementary medicines are available through most community pharmacies in Australia, where pharmacists and pharmacy staff play an important role in providing advice to consumers about these products, and about any interactions that may occur with other medicines they may be taking.
“Four Corners described complementary medicines as a $4.7 billion industry – and it’s not going away, no matter how much its detractors huff and puff.”
Mr Quilty says consumers and pharmacists alike want reliable information about complementary medicines.
Consumer research shows that consumers expect community pharmacies to stock these products in an environment where they are able to seek advice from a trusted health professional, he says.
“The constructive message to emerge from the Four Corners program was that the evidence base and labelling of therapeutic products are areas where we can improve our already world class regulatory system – for the benefit of all.
“The Guild certainly welcomes and supports this week’s indication by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt that more will be done to inform consumers about the efficacy of what they may choose to purchase,” Mr Quilty writes.
Mr Hunt said: “We will be legislating in the second half of this year to make it absolutely clear that the standards are what are claimed.”
The Guild’s submission to the Pharmacy Review made the recommendation that to provide consumers with the necessary confidence regarding the safety, efficacy and responsible marketing of complementary medicines, it should be ensured that the Therapeutic Goods Administration implements strong and transparent licensing and marketing arrangements for these products.
“The important role of pharmacists in relation to complementary medicines was acknowledged in the CHOICE survey,” Mr Quilty writes.
“This is backed up by a 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 3000 consumers which was funded by the Department of Health as part of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement Research and Development program”
A key finding of that survey was that 90% of participants reported being satisfied with the interaction they had with their pharmacist (based on the last three visits to the pharmacy).
“The main reason for satisfaction was that the pharmacist is knowledgeable and provides good advice,” Mr Quilty says.
For the CHOICE “shadow shop” of 240 pharmacies, each shopper was asked to approach the prescription dispensing counter and ask a pharmacist to recommend a product to help with stress.
CHOICE stated: “To be fair to the pharmacists, they were confronted with a customer prepared to purchase something to help them – it could be argued that by directing the customer to a product that the pharmacist believes might help, or at least do no harm, the customer would be better off than if they’d chosen a random product themselves.”
“As CHOICE found, the overwhelming majority of community pharmacists are motivated by genuine care and a desire to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients, based on evidence and transparency,” Mr Quilty says.