Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist August 2012 Contents Australian Pharmacist August 2012 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 593
THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT SAYS
It is coming up to a year since the PSA
released its Code of Ethics for Pharmacists,
a code which has not only been widely
acclaimed but which has a daily relevance
for all pharmacists practising in Australia.
I am constantly amazed at just how many
issues that arise in pharmacy today are
addressed in one way or another by the
Code, and this is a credit to those who
The Code states that it 'articulates the
values of the pharmacy profession and
expected standards of behaviour of
pharmacists to consumers and society.
It is designed to guide and support
professional practice of all pharmacists'.
The Code comes into play in our daily
work, and can be used when a pharmacist
may have doubts about some activity
A good example of this was recently
when we saw advertisements o ering
atorvastatin at no cost for the rst supply,
followed by $14.99 for each dispensing
The rst thing to mention here is that
there appears to be nothing illegal about
this o er, but that does not make it good
professional practice and in my view
it clearly sends the wrong message to
consumers and patients about why we
A good example of how it guides and
supports pharmacists is the atorvastatin
case. Under Principle 3 -- Public Trust, the
Code states: 'Consumers place a high level
of trust in pharmacists and expect sound
and objective advice.'
The Code also says pharmacists should
ensure they and their sta are not
susceptible to inappropriate marketing
in uences that may adversely impact on
their primary obligation to provide care or
advice to meet consumer needs.
'Pharmacists should carefully consider
how information provided to consumers
has been received and interpreted,' it says.
Campaigns like the above one certainly
do put adherence to Principle 3 into a
grey area -- while apparently legal they
could be seen to be adversely impacting
on the pharmacist's ability to provide care
One point of concern is that
advertisements like this do not take into
account Quality Use of Medicines issues,
which underpin the National Medicines
Policy and are paramount in ensuring
the best possible health outcomes
Our Code of Ethics for Pharmacists very
clearly articulates the values of the
pharmacy profession as well as the
expected standards of behaviour of
pharmacists to consumers and society,
and when in any doubt the pharmacist
should refer to the Code.
Another concern is that the o er of a 'free'
supply has the capacity to undervalue the
worth of a medicine, and also its potential
bene ts and dangers.
The APHRA guide to counselling patients
about prescribed medicines states:
'Patients have the right to expect that the
pharmacist will counsel them privately
about their medicines, but the patient
reserves the right not to be counselled.
The pharmacist should make every e ort
to counsel, or to o er to counsel, the
patient whenever a medicine is supplied.
Patient counselling is the nal checking
process to ensure the correct medicine
is supplied to the correct patient. Lack
of counselling can be a signi cant
contributor in dispensing errors and
The patient certainly has a right not to be
counselled and the fear is that patients
may believe 'free' means that it's safe
and therefore no counselling is needed
or required. The potential for misuse of
medicines arising from such an attitude
is clear. (See page 644 for more on
Also, it is unfortunate that a campaign
such as this has surfaced at a time
when PSA is heavily promoting the
provision of professional services as a
major focus for the profession's future.
The advertisement also has the potential
to give the public the perception that the
supply of medicines is the only concern
of pharmacists and that patient welfare is
not a professional priority.
This is far from the reality of the situation,
which is that PSA is heavily focused on
pharmacists engaging with consumers to
improve the quality use of medicines and
in achieving their optimal use.
I have every con dence that the relevant
authorities will look at situations
such as this and act to ensure QUM,
patient safety and patient wellbeing
are rst and foremost in the minds of
There is an argument of course that
o ering the rst script for free ensures
patients are more likely to have their
prescriptions lled, but this has to be
balanced against the danger of them not
using those medicines properly because
of a devalued sense of their worth.
'... the o er of a
'free' supply has
the capacity to
undervalue the worth
of a medicine, and
also its potential
bene ts and dangers.'
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