Pharmacists not giving cancer patients CMIs

Pharmacists are not adequately fulfilling their CMI obligations, according to the head of a prominent cancer consumer group.

Sally Crossing, chair of Cancer Voices NSW and convenor of Cancer Voices Australia, wrote in Oncology News that “Most Australians are receiving their medicines, some of which have serious side effects and specific dosing requirements, from hospital and community pharmacies with no information about the drug at all”.

“This is despite the fact that pharmacists are funded, though the Community Pharmacy Agreements to provide Community Medicine Information (CMIs) as they dispense the drug,” Crossing writes.

“There is real confusion as to whether the patient should be offered a CMI automatically, or must ask for it.  Of course most health consumers will not know what their information options are, and if there is nothing inside the packaging, will have no information about safe and effective use, side effects, contraindications and so on.

“Studies have shown that CMIs are rarely offered or provided. The CMI arrangements alone have patently failed and other solutions must be found.”

Crossing writes that Australians are at a “real disadvantage” when it comes to being adequately informed about the safe use of prescribed medicines.

Very few people know that CMIs are housed on the TGA’s website, for example.

She says Cancer Voices approached 15 suppliers of prescription drugs to ask them to address their concerns around CMIs; the five which responded were “All advocating for the present unsatisfactory status quo, or calling for more ‘consumer awareness’ … that it’s OUR responsibility as product consumers to gather information about the safe and effective use of THEIR products.

“There is something very amiss in this concept, and it is probably not legally tenable.”

Pharmacy Guild – Victorian Branch president Anthony Tassone told the AJP today that while he was unaware of the data mentioned by Crossing showing that pharmacies were not offering CMIs, the Guild recommends they be offered in a number of circumstances.

“These include the first time a prescribed item has been used, if the pharmacist considers it necessary for whatever reason, if it’s requested by the patient or the doctor, and if there are major changes to a CMI,” he says.

“The author of the article pointed out that there may be some confusion as to whether the patient needs to ask or should be offered; we want to encourage patients, if they’re in any doubt, to ask their pharmacist.

“Pharmacists continue to be a trusted health professional, with consumers holding them in high regard for medicines advice, and CMI leaflets are a key component to offering accurate and up to date medicines information.”

Tassone stressed that living with cancer is a difficult time for both the patient and their loved ones, and so “Pharmacists should never assume that a patient has been given all the information about their medicines, especially if they’re seeing a number of doctors or specialists.

“Being one of the most visited and accessible health care professionals in Australia, CMIs are a great opportunity for pharmacists to be able to offer that medicines information.”

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