Pharmacy deals with conflicts transparently: Tambassis

spoonful of vitamins

Guild national president George Tambassis defends the sale of complementary medicines and other retail products in pharmacy

On Wednesday, Tambassis appeared alongside AMA South Australian branch president Dr Janice Fletcher on 891 ABC Adelaide’s morning program.

Dr Fletcher told host Ali Clarke that consumers should be able to reasonably expect all medicines sold in pharmacy were thoroughly tested and evidence-based—but this was not always the case.

“Homeopathy is one particular… form of treatment that has no evidence base, and I’m sorry, but as a traditional medicine person trained in evidence-based practice, I struggle with the concept that the more you dilute a compound, the more effective it is,” she said.

“The other issue is that vitamins and minerals might be important for some people who have specific deficiencies of these products. However, most people can get what they need from a healthy diet.”

Whether pharmacies should give space to complementary medicines (CMs) that do not have a strong evidence base or even to retail products at all, is one of the 140 questions posed in the King Review discussion paper.

Tambassis responded that while the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is not a regulatory body, it does believe that CMs should have evidence behind their claims where appropriate.

“We always encourage pharmacy owners to keep complementary medicines evidence-based,” he said.

“But ultimately, the pharmacy owner decides what complementary medicines they keep in their pharmacy.

“It’s my duty to make sure that these medicines… are registered through the Therapeutic Goods Administration,” Tambassis told Clarke.

“It’s the TGA’s responsibility to make sure—A, there’s plenty of evidence around these medicines, B, don’t make crazy claims or use tricky advertisements.

“These are the sort of things that most people get upset with but there’s plenty of people out there that get some use out of these complementary medicines.

He said he agreed with some of Dr Fletcher’s comments.

“I tend to agree with the doctor around homeopathy—these are very, very dilute medicines that obviously the Guild has issues with those—but with complementary medicines, there is evidence around some of those and we certainly encourage pharmacists to keep the ones that have considerable evidence around them.

He said many consumers and doctors were happy to use CMs for some minor ailments, and that pharmacists were the ideal person to approach for information about evidence as well as other issues such as interactions.

“Really, if there’s not enough evidence around any of these complementary medicines, who better to discuss that with your friendly pharmacist when you walk into the pharmacy?”

“The AMA always looks at pharmacy and tries to give us directions but at the end of the day, pharmacists have always got the patient’s best interest at heart.

“And, yes, we do sell [complementary] medicines in our pharmacies and yes there are conflicts and we deal with that in a transparent way.”

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  1. Andrew

    Kos Sklavos said (IIRC during his Press Club speech in 2009) that if homeopathy was shown to be no better than placebo (which had been well established by then via the Lancet review) then it should be removed from pharmacy shelves.

    Seven years and two presidents later……

    I’ll find the verbatim if anyone is interested.

    • James

      Above: True, correct, I agree. However, an alternative line of thought is the demand and respect argument. There is demand by customers who truly believe in CAM’s (and homeopathy). Try telling them you don’t stock it because it doesn’t work, and you’ll lose their respect as you belittle them with “I know better”. Alternatively, stock them and safely mitigate their potential detriment (drug inteteractions etc).

      Some times their beliefs in CAM’s et al are philosophical. A long bow to draw perhaps, but try telling a religious person that their beliefs are a farce because there is no evidence that god exists.

  2. Gavin Frost

    The plural of anecdote isn’t evidence

  3. Kevin Hayward

    Proponents of homeopathy have always rested their case that whilst the evidence of efficacy can be questioned, homeopathy will do no harm.

    This stance may no longer be a valid argument.

    The US FDA warns against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels.

    The FDA recommends that consumers stop using these products and dispose of any in their possession and should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences symptoms including seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness and muscle weakness.


    • geoff

      Interesting in that you can’t blame the active ingredient because there is none. Not sure why the Sept 2016 FDA warning but it appears to refer to an Oct 2010 recall in the USA of Hyland brand homeopathic teething tablets due to inconsistent levels of belladonna in the tablets apparently due to inconsistent manufacture process…….not enough dilutions.

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