Pharmacy lambasted for CM ‘kickback scandal’

Ian Carr. Image courtesy Channel Nine.

A Channel Nine news story has slammed pharmacy for complementary medicine “kickbacks,” but Guild says the story only referred to unremarkable commercial arrangements

The story, “Kickbacks scandal rocks pharmacy industry,” claimed “trusted pharmacists” were being pressured to upsell certain products with kickbacks from suppliers.

“Like any business, pharmacies need to make money,” said reporter Kate Creedon.

“So to boost profits, they’re offered deals by supplement companies to get discounted and free stock.

“Nine news has sighted an email from one rep, stipulating how many shelves would need to display that brand exclusively for the pharmacy to be eligible for the deal.”

The story is also critical of CM brand training for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants, “with some instructed to push brands with which pharmacy franchises have arrangements”.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild told the AJP that it does not condone nor endorse any inappropriate or unethical practices in relation to complementary products or any other medicines, a stance which it also highlighted in the Nine story.

“However, it should be noted that the recent Channel Nine news story was bereft of any primary source or evidence of any such behaviour, and instead referred only to perfectly normal commercial arrangements in which pharmacy businesses try to acquire stock at the best possible price,” the spokesperson says.

“There was no evidence provided of any inappropriate activity.”

The story also quoted Friends of Science in Medicine’s Ian Carr, a Taree pharmacist, who told Ms Creedon that “there’s very little actual evidence behind the claims made”.

The Guild believes it is essential that consumers have access to objective, informed advice about complementary medicines, says the organisation’s spokesperson.

“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,” they say.

“Pharmacists, as highly trusted health professionals, have a duty of care to be aware of available clinical evidence that supports the therapeutic and marketing claims made about all products sold in their pharmacies.”

Mr Carr told the AJP today that pharmacists often have a tough time explaining the evidence base for their chosen CM – or the lack thereof – to consumers after they have selected a product.

“It’s hard to get that sensible message across when they’ve already had the ad message given to them in only 15 or 30 seconds, and then we’ve got to undo that,” he says.

“This is even if you get to them, because they just grab it off the shelf, or it may be available in Coles. And now they’re talking about these supplements being available in vending machines.

“It all tracks back again to the fact that the TGA takes the attitude that this stuff is harmless, but my argument is not whether the stuff is harmless, but that it confuses people’s thinking about what’s good and appropriate and what will work for their health.”

Mr Carr also says that he understands why banner groups planogram and advertise CMs, but “in my opinion, it doesn’t have to be done that way.”

Watch the Nine News story here.

Image: Channel Nine.

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