Pharmacists accused of legitimizing non-evidence based medicine


By Mardi Chapman

16 Feb 2017

The AMA and other representatives of the medical profession have called out their pharmacy colleagues for selling complementary medicines with little or no evidence to support their efficacy.

In this week’s ABC 4 Corners episode Swallowing It, AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said pharmacists – ‘an important member of the professional healthcare team’ – were legitimising non-evidence based treatment.

“When we look at the most trusted professions, year on year on year, I’m proud to say that at the top is doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. So that respect has been hard won. That’s put at risk if they’re being seen to promote treatments that increasingly the average consumer recognises might be a load of rubbish.”

Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Bond University Paul Glasziou, who contributed to the 4 Corners program, told the limbic that pharmacists were under pressure to search for profits elsewhere as rebates on prescription medicines had decreased.

“The disturbing thing is the shift in financial incentives that are pushing pharmacists to look for earnings at the front of shop. It’s a worrying trend that is changing the pharmacist’s relationship with the customer and shifting their advice to them.”

He said there could be better remuneration for additional pharmacy roles such as medication reviews and Webster packaging multiple medications.

“There are financial levers that could and probably should be implemented.”

He added doctors should also be vigilant to ensure they were always providing patients with evidence-based advice.

Professor Stephen King, who chairs the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review, said on the 4 Corners program that there were passionate opinions on both sides of the argument.

On the one hand, pharmacists were in a better position to provide advice on products that consumers would otherwise buy elsewhere; on the other hand, pharmacists were legitimising dodgy products.

Pharmacy representatives argued they were simply meeting consumer demand.

The program said Australians spend more money, out of their own pockets, on complementary medicines than prescriptions drugs.

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