Complementary Medicines The Case Against Their Supply In Pharmacy

1760 words - 7 pages

Consumers want complementary medicines, some evidence suggests that work may work, and their use is on the increase. However, most complementary medicines lack clinical trials that conclusively prove their efficacy. 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. For pharmacists, considered drug therapy experts within the community, their supply from a pharmacy presents a serious ethical dilemma because it is would be unwise to recommend an unproven treatment. This essay will argue that there is no place for the supply of complementary medicines in pharmacy. Reasons for consumer demand for complementary medicine will be reviewed and the ethics of their supply by a pharmacist within a pharmacy will be examined. 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 (Therapeutic Goods Administration, 2007).

Complementary medicine use has become widespread, 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 12 months (Semple, Hotham, Rao, Martin, Smith and Bloustien, 2006, p. 367). Avogo, Frimpong, Rivers, and Kim (2008) report consumer reasons for seeking access to complementary medicines are several and varied, and include: a) those without ready access to conventional therapies, b) those dissatisfied with conventional care, c) those whom conventional medical care has no cure, d) those who cannot afford the expense of conventional care, and e) those with a desire to control their own care. By all accounts, the use of complementary medicine is increasing in use (Bent, 2008, p. 854; Mainardi, Kapoor and Bielory, 2009, p. 261). Consumers may perceive complementary medicines as a safe complementary or alternative treatment to conventional medical care, resulting in an increase in their use.

Complementary medicine may be viewed by consumers as a natural therapy, or as regulated by the government, and therefore, safe to use. Complementary medicines such as herbs and traditional medicine have been used medicinally for thousands of years. Bent suggests consumers are drawn to herbs because they are naturally occurring and therefore, considered safe. However, this is not necessarily the case as herbs are infrequently consumed in their natural state. If we consider that in the United States patent medications, imported from Asia, were tested and found to contain undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients and heavy metal contamination (Bent, 2008, p. 856; Pray, 2006, p. 5), it can be considered that there is a similar risk of contamination may be present in complementary medicines....

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