Complementary medicines (CMs) are widely used by the Australian public, and pharmacies are major suppliers of these medicines. The integration of CMs into pharmacy practice is well documented, but the behaviours of pharmacists in recommending CMs to customers are less well studied. This study reports on factors that influence whether or not pharmacists in Australia recommend CMs to their customers.
Data were collected from semi-structured interviews with twelve practicing pharmacists based in Brisbane, Australia. The qualitative data were analysed by thematic analysis.
The primary driver of the recommendation of CMs was a desire to provide a health benefit to the customer. Other important drivers were an awareness of evidence of efficacy, customer feedback and pharmacy protocols to recommend a CM alongside a particular pharmaceutical medication. The primary barrier to the recommendation of CMs was safety concerns around patients on multiple medications or with complex health issues. Also, a lack of knowledge of CMs, a perceived lack of evidence or a lack of time to counsel patients were identified as barriers. There was a desire to see a greater integration of CM into formal pharmacy education. Additionally, the provision of good quality educational materials was seen as important to allow pharmacists to assess levels of evidence for CMs and educate them on their safe and appropriate use.
Pharmacists who frequently recommend CMs identify many potential benefits for patients and see it as an important part of providing a ‘healthcare solution’. To encourage the informed use of CMs in pharmacy there is a need for the development of accessible, quality resources on CMs. In addition, incorporation of CM education into pharmacy curricula would better prepare graduate pharmacists for community practice. Ultimately, such moves would contribute to the safe and effective use of CMs to the benefit of consumers.