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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  1. Ian Carr

    The “strong move” towards so-called integrative medicine that Blackmore’s claim is a classic example of the logical fallacy “argumentum ad numerum” or appeal to popularity. It does not address the issue.

    I am also discerning a “strong move”. The immediate and furious media response to the Guild/Blackmore’s “fries with burgers” a while back thankfully resulted in a well publicized reversal. (The planting of their agents within pharmacies would appear to be merely a slightly more subtle way of skinning the cat.)

    There is a substantial proportion of Australians who enter a pharmacy expecting no-nonsense, evidence-based health advice. Recently, a friend with diagnosed anaemia sought an iron supplement (a scheduled medicine) from a pharmacist who referred her to his naturopath!!! Another friend was offered a homeopathic product for a sick child. A younger, better educated and internet-savvy generation is much quicker to call BS.

    Pharmacy is in danger of losing its (remaining?) credibility. Our reputation with many of our GP colleagues is surely at an all time low and still diving. And this at a time when the profession is seeking better remuneration and expanded roles in the health system. And our pharmacy graduates have never been better trained in evidence based medicine.

    Can we ignore the PR terms as “integrative”, “complementary” and “synergism” and get down to tin tacks. Do pharmacists employing naturopaths really know what they’re up to? Selling vitamins is one thing, but here’s Wikipedia on naturopathy:

    “Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine employing a wide array of “natural” modalities, including homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as diet and lifestyle counseling. Naturopaths favor a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoid the use of surgery and drugs. Naturopathic medicine contains many pseudoscientific concepts and is considered ineffective and can be harmful, which raises ethical issues.[1][2][3] Naturopaths have repeatedly been accused of being charlatans and practicing quackery.[1][4][5][6][7][8]”

    I would like to see a survey of those who are being referred to the pharmacy naturopath. Are they aware that iridology, live blood analysis, energy readings etc are without basis in science? If they don’t know, does our Code of Ethics not suggest the pharmacist should be telling them?

    Furthermore, the naturopathic movement harbours many antivaxxers. Can you be sure that your naturopath is not counselling your patients to ditch their nasty, man made chemical drugs?

    What is your naturopath advising YOUR patients? Do you get to know?
    As for me, I am a great believer in the natural. Most of us need little more than a quality, varied diet, some exercise, family and community, and a little help from the doctor and pharmacist when the perfectly natural phenomenon of illness strikes.

  2. Ron Batagol

    “Employing naturopaths in chemists akin to McDonalds style, as the Daily Telegraph article on 8th May noted (

    “PHARMACISTS have blasted attempts by the vitamin and supplement industry to employ naturopaths in chemists as a sales gimmick and fear it will diminish the credibility of their profession”

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s bad for pharmacy’s image,

    Also, Is the “strong evidence” claimed by proponents of naturopathic methods incorporating studies based on numbers needed to treat or similar definitive evidence-based outcomes? I doubt it! And what of the risks that someone suffering from prostate cancer uses some naturopathic treatment till it’s too late when a pharmacist assessing the case would have referred the patient to a medical practitioner?

    This is not good optics at all, especially at a time when pharmacists are starting to gain recognition in clinical advice roles in GP clinics via PSA initiatives etc., as has been occurring for some time in Great Britain and elsewhere!!

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