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 conv...
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...quire proof of efficacy and therefore their efficacy has not been established. The belief held by about half of the Australian public that the government tests complementary medicines for efficacy is incorrect. This creates a problem for health care professionals because a risk-benefit profile can not be established, and so consequently they are unable to recommend an unproven complementary medicine. Lack of efficacy also creates ethical challenges for their supply as the community perceives pharmacists as evidence-based experts on drug therapy, but for the majority of complementary medicines this evidence does not exist. Therefore, it can only be concluded that there is no place for the supply of complementary medicines in pharmacy. (REF:5) summaries this position well, “when proof of efficacy is lacking, any risk, no matter how remote, is too much to bear”.
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