There is no place for the supply of vitamins or complimentary medicines in pharmacy.
Most complementary medicines lack clinical trials that conclusively prove their efficacy. For pharmacists, considered as drug therapy experts within the community, their supply from a pharmacy presents a serious ethical dilemma, as it is would be unwise to recommend an unproven treatment. It has been reported that this is further compounded by a lack of clear information on the status of the body of evidence for the support of specific complementary medicines. However, there is evidence to suggest that not only can complementary medicines work, but also that the use of complementary medicines is on the increase. This essay aims to review some of the reasons for the use of consumer demand for complementary medicine. Once this has been established, the ethics of the supply of complementary medicines will be examined in detail, concluding with a remark regarding the appropriateness of their supply by a pharmacist within a pharmacy. Within this essay, the term ‘complementary’ medicines will be intended to include “herbal medicines, traditional medicines, vitamins and minerals, nutritional supplements, homeopathic medicines and aromatherapy products” as defined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (REF:TGA).
Complementary medicine use has become wide spread, and by all accounts, consumer demand is increasing further. A 2004 representative population survey conducted within Australia revealed that 52% of Australians had used a complementary medicine within the last twelve months (REF:6). (REF:2) reports that consumers reasons for accessing complementary medicines are several and varied, and includes those without ready access to conventional therapies, those dissatisfied with conventional care, those whom conventional medical care has no cure, those who can not afford the expense of conventional care, and those with a desire to control their own care. By all accounts the use of complementary medicine is increasing in use (REF:3, REF:7). It can be concluded that consumer interest in complementary medicines is a growing trend.
Complementary medicine may be viewed by consumers as a natural therapy, or as regulated by the government, and therefore safe to use. Several complementary medicines, such as herbs and traditional medicine, have been used medicinally for thousands of years. (REF:3) suggests that consumers are drawn to herbs because they are naturally occurring and therefore considered safe. However as herbs are infrequently consumed in their natural state this is not necessarily the case. If we consider, as an example, that in the United States patent medications have been tested and found to contain undeclared pharmaceutical actives and heavy metal contamination (REF:3, REF:5), it is easy to consider that there is a similar risk of contamination that may be found in complementary medicines. The chance of similar contamination being...