Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist July 2014 Contents Australian Pharmacist July 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Australian pharmacists have been put under renewed criticism for
stocking products lacking proof of clinical efficacy.
Specifically, pharmacists are under
pressure to stop selling homeopathic
products following a National Health and
Medical Research Council review which
concluded that there was no reliable
evidence that such products could treat
health conditions in humans.
Since the report's release pharmacists
have been dubbed by critics of
homeopathy in the media as 'greedy
profit-makers' for selling what is termed
'unproven rubbish'. This disapproval
stems from the suggestion that
pharmacy businesses are driven by
commercial reasons to stock a range
of complementary and alternative
medicines, and that this undermines the
professionalism of the pharmacy and
pharmacists in general. Further, there
is the argument that the sale of
these products is against the ethics
Pharmacies have traditionally been
places where patients can expect both
healthcare advice and treatment options.
However, the ease of access and the
vast amounts of information available
on the internet has allowed users to
self diagnose and become their own
healthcare adviser. Without proper advice
from a pharmacist or other healthcare
professional, patients are more likely to
turn to unproven or potentially adverse
therapies, including homeopathy.
In Australia, all products containing
ingredients such as herbs, vitamins,
minerals, nutritional supplements,
homoeopathic and certain aromatherapy
preparations are regulated under the
Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. While these
products have been deemed to be safe
for use by the public, they often do
not have the same evidence base as
prescription and pharmacy medicines.
The lack of clinical evidence and often
miniscule concentration of active
ingredient found in homeopathic
products suggests that they are no
different from placebos. Nonetheless,
the regulator has continued to allow the
presence of these products in pharmacies
As healthcare professionals and drug
experts, pharmacists are expected to
exercise their professional judgment
and provide patients with accurate
and evidence-based healthcare advice
to ensure the best health outcome
for the patient. As one of the most
trusted professions and member of the
community, pharmacists must have
mastered the art of communicating with
patients of all ages and background.
Being in tune with the patient's level of
understanding, anticipating patient's
needs and expectations are paramount
when homeopathic products are
involved in patient advice.
To ensure the autonomy and rights of
patients, it is crucial that patients are
presented with the different choices
of therapy. As responsible healthcare
professionals, pharmacists should
provide patients with impartial,
evidence-based information, including
risks and benefits, to enable patients
to make an informed decision. In the
end, whatever the patient decides,
the pharmacist has fulfilled the ethical
and professional duty as a healthcare
EARLY CAREER PHARMACIST FOCUS
BY YELITTE HO
professional, and the patient's choice
Changes to government funding
arrangements and PBS price cuts have
pushed pharmacies to ensure their
sustainability by providing more than
just medications and healthcare advice.
Confectionaries, beauty products,
giftware and even fashion accessories are
now a common sight in most pharmacies.
These products and homeopathy are
likely to remain in pharmacies.
Regardless of the debate on
the appropriateness of stocking
homeopathic products in pharmacies,
as healthcare professionals, pharmacists
are expected to observe the principle of
primum non nocere (first, do no harm).
While most homeopathic products
provide no benefits nor risk to a patient,
it is likely that some may have an adverse
effect. If this occurs, pharmacists have
both a legal and ethical obligation to
stop selling and report the products to
the relevant authorities.
Advice, care and services to the public
remain the core business of community
pharmacies. It is therefore imperative
that pharmacists continue to safeguard
patient health through unbiased and
Yelitte Ho is a Canberra-based pharmacist and is part of
the Australian Pharmacy Council's Examining Committee
and PSA Early Career Pharmacist Working Group.
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