Australian pharmacies under fire over Dietary Supplement deal

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th September 2011

Under a controversial new partnership between The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Australian dietary supplement manufacturer Blackmores, Australian pharmacists will promote dietary supplements alongside prescription medication at point-of-sale.

The partnership has been criticised by the Australian Medical Association, which has voiced concerns that the financial interest of Blackmores and The Pharmacy Guild of Australia may be taking priority over the interests of patients.

From October 2011, Blackmores’ new Companions range of products will be recommended at point-of-sale by members of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which comprises 94% of pharmacies in Australia.

Blackmores’ CEO Christine Holgate was quoted by Pharmacy News as saying Blackmores could provide ”the Coke and fries” with prescription drugs, giving pharmacies ”a new and important revenue stream”.

According to Blackmores, the dietary supplement products have been “formulated to help offset the nutritional consequences of taking key prescription medicines”.

Australian Medical Association President Steve Hambleton, was reported in an interview by ABC radio today to have said, “This sort of advice from a professional pharmacist will have a great impact on patients and they may well decide to choose to purchase these products. We know some patients won’t even take all of their medicines because of the price – I’d hate to think that they’d substitute one of their prescribed medicines for one of these companion products.

“There is potential to sell these companion products with around 58 million claims for PBS prescriptions. This is a big financial deal. We can’t put finances ahead of the health of a patient,” he said.

In a statement issued today, Ms Holgate said, “Pharmacists are among the most trusted health professionals and they are well positioned to understand the needs of their patients. This range ensures the pharmacist becomes the advisor on supplements to take with prescription medicines as they have the expertise to make this recommendation.”

Kos Sclavos, National President of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia in a statement released today added, “As the most readily available health professionals, pharmacists are ideally placed to assist consumers to make informed decisions about complementary medicines and nutritional supplements. The Guild supports and applauds the work of Blackmores in contributing to pharmacist education in this area. Long-term drug therapy may have nutritional consequences and these are often overlooked or not well understood. As a result, alterations in nutritional status may occur, particularly if dietary intake is poor.”

The Blackmores Companions range is due to be made available from October 2011.

Upcoming Syposium will focus on marketing of dietary supplements

Coinciding with this news, Australian specialist compliance law firm FoodLegal, in conjunction with the SAI Global group, is conducting a Symposium on 10 October in Sydney covering regulatory issues for dietary supplements. The Symposium is to focus on the different areas of regulation for complementary health products such as dietary supplements and vitamins, and health-related functional foods.

Speakers include regulators from government food agency FSANZ and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), as well as some of Australia’s leading experts in the areas of food law, health and therapeutic regulations, and marketing law.
The symposium, titled ‘Healthy Bodies of Law: Food or Therapeutic? Finding Advantages in the Regulatory Differences’ will be held at The Menzies Hotel in Sydney CBD.

Pre-booking for the symposium ($295.00 inc. GST) is required. For more information, click here.