Pharmacists recommending alternative meds with no scientific evidence

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th February 2017

St John's Wart, one of the options offered by chemists to help relieve stress

A CHOICE study has found many Australian pharmacists are recommending alternative medicines that have little to no scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness.

The consumer advocacy group got mystery shoppers to visit 240 pharmacies and ask the pharmacist if they could recommend anything to help relieve stress.

“When a pharmacist was asked if there was something they could recommend for stress, worryingly 26 per cent of pharmacists recommended products based on Bach flower remedies and 3 per cent recommended homoeopathic products, for which there is no evidence of effectiveness,” said CHOICE Head of Media, Tom Godfrey.

Products containing a B group vitamin complex, for which there is some evidence it may help says CHOICE, were the most commonly recommended products with 46 per cent of pharmacists suggesting them.

“Other frequently recommended products were St John’s Wort (11 per cent) and Valerian (15 per cent). However, there is no good evidence they help with stress, though valerian may help with stress-related insomnia,” Godfrey said.

For 59 per cent of shoppers, assurance that the product works was given without any suggestion of supporting evidence and 24 per cent were told the recommended product scientifically works.

“Pharmacists enjoy a huge level of trust from the community and the industry is a strong advocate for its role in Australia’s health care system. It’s deeply concerning that the explanation for the recommendations were often vague and lacked scientific evidence to support their effectiveness,” Godfrey said.

CHOICE recommends pharmacists should seek more information about consumers symptoms, recommend evidence-based solutions and advise consumers to visit doctors if appropriate.


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