‘Don’t be ambiguous’ on complementary medicines

23 October 2020

Pharmacists should use their skills to provide evidence-based advice to consumers purchasing supplements and complementary medicines, according to new research from the University of Queensland.

Senior Lecturer at The University of Queensland’s School of Pharmacy Dr Adam La Caze said one in two Australians take complementary medicines – described as products containing herbs, vitamins or nutritional supplements – and many of these are purchased from pharmacies. This is despite a lack of evidence on the efficacy of most of these products.

"In Australia, these products are considered sufficiently safe for self-care and are sold in pharmacies and a range of alternative outlets," Dr La Caze said.

"Our research recognised the conflict between a pharmacist’s responsibility to respect consumer health choice and their duty to provide evidence-based advice."

To assist in this, Dr La Caze and his colleagues developed a framework to support and guide pharmacists when selling complementary medicines.

Their recommendations include:

  • provide consumers with evidence-based recommendations, and train staff to do the same and refer to a pharmacist when required
  • provide sufficient information for consumers to make informed decisions
  • set up pharmacy processes so consumers are offered advice from a pharmacist when purchasing complementary medicines
  • ensure pharmacists are available to advise staff and customers
  • be vigilant for complementary medicine harm and intervening if risk of harm is significant. 

Pharmacists should get involved in sales of complementary medicines, Dr La Caze told Australian Pharmacist, and use their skills to provide evidence-based information to consumers.

Read full Australian Pharmacist article