Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) are extremely popular in Australia. One study estimated that 69% of Australian adults used at least one non-medically prescribed CAM product and 44% of Australian adults have visited at least one complementary healthcare practitioner(1).
Many people that use CAM products self-prescribe and self-select these medicines without consulting a healthcare professional such as a medical doctor, pharmacist or CAM therapist. Whilst some CAMs have known benefits and are very safe, others can interact with prescribed medicines and are potentially harmful.
Community pharmacy is one of the main suppliers of CAMs in the retail sector. In fact, pharmacies are the primary outlet for approximately 40% of the total spend (2) of between $800 million and $1.3 billion annually (2;3).
These factors combine to provide pharmacists and other pharmacy staff with a major opportunity, but also a burden of responsibility to ensure that the principles of Quality Use of Medicines are applied to this area of therapeutics.
Due to the continued popularity of CAMs, their potential to provide both benefits and pose risks to customers and the role of pharmacists in the community, it is important to consider how CAMs are being integrated within retail pharmacies.
The study will investigate the perceptions, behaviours and opinions of pharmacists, pharmacy assistants and customers regarding the integration of CAMs into pharmacy practice. To do this, a customer survey and a separate pharmacist and pharmacy assistant survey will be conducted.
It is expected that approximately 1000 customers will complete the questionnaire while attending various community pharmacies in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The pharmacist and pharmacy assistant surveys will capture information from over 600 pharmacists from urban and rural areas of Australia.
This will be conducted as an online questionnaire so pharmacists and pharmacy assistants can fill out the survey anywhere they have access to the internet.
It is expected that the project will identify unmet needs of pharmacists, pharmacy assistants and customers and provide information important to developing methods for improving quality use of medicines.
The study may also identify unexpected areas of pharmacist, pharmacy assistant and customer interest, their concerns and future opportunities for the development of professional services.
The results will be used to inform education providers, including professional associations and universities developing undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational training.
The project is being funded by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and supported by the Department of Health and Ageing as part of the fourth community pharmacy agreement.
The Principal Investigator of the study is Professor Michael Dooley and the research team consists of:
If you have queries about this study, please contact the project supervisor Dr Braun