Strong move towards integrative medicine

Healthcare is moving towards integrative medicine, says a spokesperson for Blackmores, citing data which shows eight out of 10 Australian pharmacists take supplements themselves.

Earlier this week, Friends of Science in Medicine’s Ian Carr told us he and the group were stepping up a campaign against unproven complementary and alternative medicines in pharmacy, including naturopathy.

This followed the publication of a story in the Daily Telegraph over the weekend, in which reporter Jane Hansen spoke to Carr and Blackmores’ Lesley Braun following Blackmores advertisements last week for naturopaths to work in Sydney pharmacies as part of an “in-store health and wellbeing team”.

Pam Stone, spokesperson for Blackmores, told the AJP that “Consumers prefer natural health solutions – they are generally very well-tolerated and there is a growing body of evidence to support their benefit.

“Consumers increasingly turn to nutritional supplements and pharmacy as their preferred destination for advice so it’s a natural fit.

“Naturopaths have complementary expertise, for example pharmacists specialise in pharmacology and naturopaths in nutrition.”

Stone says that there is a strong move in healthcare towards integrative medicine, where both the pharmaceutical and the natural therapies work synergistically to benefit the patient.

“Since nutritional and herbal medicine has not been a significant part of pharmacist education, the naturopath can support with advice on herbs, minerals and vitamins as well a diet and lifestyle advice.  It works best when these professionals work as a team rather than in isolation.”

The in-store teams are employed by Blackmores, and Stone says their aim is to support busy pharmacies so that consumers can access their assistance when navigating the nutritional supplement section.

“The team are tertiary qualified to advise on nutritional health solutions as well as diet and lifestyle advice. It’s their duty as healthcare professionals to put the patient first,” she told the AJP.

“They are Blackmores staff that are invited by the pharmacist to assist in-store based on their expertise. They are all tertiary-qualified, accredited healthcare professionals and they work in partnership with the pharmacist.

“We have a strict governance framework to ensure this advice is given responsibly and ethically. As healthcare professionals they are bound by a code of professional conduct.

“They are not remunerated on sales, it is not a commercial role, they don’t even handle money. They recommend the right product, even if it is not from our brand. They are clearly identified as Blackmores representatives and they refer customers to the pharmacist if their expertise is needed.

“The most frequently asked questions are about dosage, interactions with other medicines, ingredients and common health complaints such as energy, sleep, and stress.”

She cited data saying that 80% of pharmacists take supplements themselves, “indicating a broad acceptance of their use by the profession”.

“A Pharmacy Guild report on the national survey of over 700 pharmacists found over 50% would employ a naturopath and most importantly, they felt it was very important that this naturopath should have a tertiary qualification and be a member of a professional association.

“Interestingly, the Guild report goes on to explain that 65% of pharmacy customers taking complementary medicines, that is Australian consumers, think it’s important for a naturopath to be available in a pharmacy.”

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