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ABC’s Four Corners takes aim at pharmacists

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ABC’s Four Corners takes aim at pharmacists

ABC’s Four Corners is taking aim at pharmacists who sell vitamins, supplement and complementary medicines.

In episode titled Swallowing It to be broadcast on Monday, the program takes a swipe at pharmacists who sell “unproven” products.

The program explores the regulation and marketing of complementary medicines, and questions “whether the credibility of chemists is threatened by selling them”.

The AMA is quoted as saying pharmacists could damage their “hard won” reputation if they promote complementary medicines — which the association describes as “very expensive urine”.

"When we look at the most trusted professions, year on year on year… at the top are doctors, nurses and pharmacists,” it says. “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."

Complementary Medicines Australia CEO Carl Gibson doesn’t believe the industry and pharmacists will be fairly portrayed in the program, for which he was interviewed.

“They go in with an agenda and they are keen to put our industry under the microscope.”

He describes his interview as a “very robust exchange”.

He believes the program will question the evidence of complementary medicines but ignore some of the more accepted ones — such as folic acid and St Johns Wort.

 “The focus is preventative health care and I would argue the best people to give that advice and guidance is pharmacists because they are trusted,” he says.

“They are probably the most well trained and informed source of advice on complementary medicines.”

Mr Gibson is confident consumers won’t be unduly influenced by the program, with “well-balanced” comments already appearing on the Four Corners Facebook page.

“People vote with their feet. They will only buy the products if it works for them.”

Pharmacy Guild president George Tambassis, was also interviewed for the program, won’t comment until the story airs.

However, a Guild spokesperson reiterated the organisation’s position that pharmacists should have clinical evidence to back the marketing claims of products they stock.

The Four Corners program follows a Channel Nine report earlier this week on supposed kick-backs to pharmacists for stocking complementary medicines.

However, there was no evidence presented that pharmacists were receiving money to stock certain products.

It focused instead on volume discounts and incentives for shelf space.


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