The Consumers Health Forum says pharmacists are jeopardising their authority as health professionals by promoting unproven complementary medicines
In a call to “end the marketing practices that can mislead people about the health benefits of many complementary medicine products,” the CHF says that pharmacists have a duty of care to provide accurate health information.
“Pharmacists are seeking to expand their roles as health care providers, in areas such as medication checks and immunisation,” says CHF CEO Leanne Wells.
“This is a welcome move as pharmacists are highly trusted and accessible health professionals who have a duty of care under their own code of to provide consumers with the best available information on medications and potential side effects, drug interactions and risks of harm.
“When these expected clinical practices are not followed, pharmacists put in jeopardy their authority as health care providers by promoting complementary products as medicines when most products have no proven efficacy.
“In this ‘post-truth’ era it is important that consumers have a clear idea of which products are proven.
“Many consumers believe that because the product is sold in a pharmacy it must be worthwhile.
“Consumers are spending billions of dollars a year on these products when often what they might often need is a prescribed medicine or some other form of health service.”
Complementary medicines should be required to display whether they have proven efficacy, Ms Wells says.
She welcomed TGA moves to reform the regulatory framework for CMs, which would make it clearer to consumers which have evidence to support their efficacy.
“The Consumers Health Forum has argued for years that there is a simple and evidence-based way of making it clear to consumers whether a product has any therapeutic value,” she says.
“That is to have a TGA note on labels stating whether or not the product has convinced authorities of its efficacy.
“It is not good enough to say that as the products do no harm, there need not be a clear indication of their efficacy. Low risk does not equal a health benefit.
“This is particularly important when we consider that Australians’ out of pocket costs for healthcare are already relatively high.
“It’s also important because we know from research that over 60% of Australians have low health literacy which means they don’t necessarily have the information, skills and confidence to weigh up what they hear in the marketing compared with the facts about health benefits.”
Jo Watson, the deputy chair of the CHF, is one of three members of the King Review panel that has queried, along with other practices, whether complementary medicines should be sold in pharmacies at all.