Up to three in 10 British pharmacies may be failing to give safety advice, a consumer advocacy organisation has found
Which? Magazine, part of the Which? Group which also includes the Consumers’ Association, sent undercover researchers into 78 pharmacies to find out if staff were counselling on adverse events and correct use of medicines.
The pharmacies included independents as well as high street stores like Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons.
The Which? team developed two scenarios to test on pharmacies, the first of which involved a researcher attempting to buy ibuprofen alongside Sudafed Sinus Pressure & Pain – which also includes ibuprofen, thus risking double-dosing. The Sudafed product is scheduled Pharmacy Only.
“During the transaction, just half of our researchers were asked if they were taking any other medication, and only a quarter were asked if they’d had the medication before – two questions that our expert pharmacist highlighted as important,” writes reporter Anna Studman.
“In a third of visits, our researchers were not warned about the risks of taking the two medicines together.”
Both pharmacists and assistants had performed these sales. The pharmacies which received the most “good” ratings, at four each, were Lloyd’s/Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Morrison’s, though these each recorded two “poor” results; the Asda pharmacies recorded three “poor” results and only one “good” score.
“In two of the visits rated as poor at Asda’s pharmacies, our researchers were only asked one question each, and were given no warnings about taking the medications together,” Which? Reports.
“In the third poor visit, our researcher was only asked two questions and was then refused the sale of the two medicines based on the fact that they both contain ibuprofen – an unreasonable restriction.”
The second scenario saw researchers attempt to buy four 16-tablet packets of paracetamol at 42 pharmacies, supermarkets and discount stores.
Regulatory guidelines state that sales of paracetamol should be restricted to two packets per transaction, and the researchers hoped to find out whether stores were compliant.
“On 11 visits we were able to buy more than the recommended amount of paracetamol in one transaction, without any questions being asked,” Ms Studman writes.
“In our visits, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco successfully implemented a two-packet maximum.
“But it was a slightly different picture at some pharmacies, as a larger number of packets were sold without advice. We’ve rated these visits as needing improvement.
“Worryingly, Poundland has a multibuy promotion, selling three 16-tablet packets of paracetamol for £1.”
Asda, Lloydspharmacy and Tesco committed to improving their pharmacy staff training after being presented with the Which? results, while Boots said it would take the findings on board.
Morrisons declined to comment, while Poundland said that “we sell most things for £1, which is why we sell three packets together”.
Read the full story here.