MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Alternative medicine differs from conventional medicine in numerous ways. One important difference is that patients often opt to try this or that product without consulting any healthcare professional at all. In such cases, the pharmacist might be the ONLY professional who can advise the patient who is about to purchase such a product.

This is why the role of the pharmacist in alternative medicine is crucial, arguably more so than in conventional medicine. And this is why I am banging on about pharmacists who far too often behave like shop-keepers and not like ethical healthcare professionals. A new review addresses these issues and provides relevant information.

Pharmacists from the University of Macau in Macau, China conducted a literature review to extract publications from 2000 to 2015 that related pharmacist to alternative medicine products. 41 publications which reported findings from exploratory studies or discussed pharmacists’ responsibilities towards such products were selected for inclusion.

Seven major responsibilities emerged:

  • to acknowledge the use of alternative medicine products;
  • to be knowledgeable about such products;
  • to ensure safe use of such products;
  • to document the use of such products;
  • to report ADRs related to such products;
  • to educate about such products;
  • to collaborate with other health care professionals in respect to such products.

One point that is not directly covered here is the duty of pharmacists to comply with their own ethical codes. As I have pointed out ad nauseam, this would mean in many instances to not sell alternative medicine products at all, because there is no good evidence to show that they are generating more good than harm and thus are potentially harmful as well as wasteful.

Some pharmacists have realised that there is a problem. Some pharmacists are trying to initiate discussions about these issues within their profession. Some pharmacists are urging to change things. Some pharmacists are well-aware that healthcare ethics are being violated on a daily basis.

All this has been going on now for well over a decade.

And has there been any noticeable change?

Not as far as I can see!

Perhaps it is time to realise that not merely the sale of bogus medicines by pharmacists is unethical, but so is dragging one’s feet in initiating improvements.

 

4 Responses to Pharmacists’ responsibilities vis a vis alternative medicine: the violation of healthcare ethics continues.

  • Using humour to explain the problem with Pharmacies in Australia.

    “Pharma Sutra: Seems you can buy anything at a pharmacy these days. But are pharmacists breaking their own code of conduct?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTcLpY3MWPk (7min)

  • I just checked on Boots’ website. The UK’s biggest pharmaceutical chain lists 5 homeopathic products, four versions of Arnica and one of Aconite. But — get this! — they are currently part of a ‘3 for 2’ price offer on ‘selected vitamins, supplements and herbal products’. Is it any wonder that the public is confused about the real nature of homeopathy?

    Does this characterization of the five products comply with the second of the pharmacists’ responsibilities: “to be knowledgeable about such products”?

    • Wouldn’t 2 for 3 be a fairer reflection of their philosophy?

    • Homeopathic products are generally displayed outside the designated pharmacy area and therefore outwith the control of the pharmacist. That shouldn’t stop them trying to ensure the shop itself doesn’t sell them, but they are in a difficult position. The same issue doesn’t arise with small high street pharmacists where the pharmacist owns the shop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please answer the following: *

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted.


Click here for a comprehensive list of recent comments.

Categories