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Factors affecting pharmacists’ recommendation of complementary medicines – a qualitative pilot study of Australian pharmacists

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      Abstract

      Background

      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.

      Methods

      Data were collected from semi-structured interviews with twelve practicing pharmacists based in Brisbane, Australia. The qualitative data were analysed by thematic analysis.

      Results

      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.

      Conclusions

      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.

      Related collections

      Most cited references 24

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      Complementary and alternative medicine use in Australia: a national population-based survey.

      To investigate the use of and expenditure on 17 of the most popular forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by adult Australians, sociodemographic characteristics of CAM users, and communication between CAM users and their doctors. In May-June 2005, a sample of 1067 adults, 18 years and older, from all Australian states and territories, was recruited by random-digit telephone dialing and interviewed about their CAM use in the previous 12 months. In the 12-month period, 68.9% (95% CI: 66.1%-71.7%) of those interviewed used at least one of the 17 forms of CAM and 44.1% (95% confidence interval: 41.1%-47.1%) visited a CAM practitioner. The estimated number of visits to CAM practitioners by adult Australians in the 12-month period (69.2 million) was almost identical to the estimated number of visits to medical practitioners (69.3 million). The annual "out of pocket" expenditure on CAM, nationally, was estimated as 4.13 billion Australian dollars (US $3.12 billion). Less than half of the users always informed their medical practitioners about their use of CAM. The most common characteristics of CAM users were: age, 18-34; female; employed; well-educated; private health insurance coverage; and higher-than-average incomes. CAM use nationally in Australia appears to be considerably higher than estimated from previous Australian studies. This may reflect an increasing popularity of CAM; however, regional variations in CAM use and the broader range of CAM included in the current study may contribute to the difference. Most frequently, doctors would not appear to be aware of their patient use of CAM.
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        Attitudes of Australian pharmacists toward complementary and alternative medicines.

        The increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by the general public has led to increasing interest in how health professionals view these therapies. To determine the knowledge and attitudes of pharmacists toward CAM. An anonymous, self-administered questionnaire was designed and mailed to 1500 randomly selected pharmacists in New South Wales, Australia. Four hundred eighty-four responses were received, with 77% of respondents indicating that they had personally used CAM and 60% correctly identifying that CAM was comprised of more than just botanicals and nutritional agents. The most commonly used CAMs were herbal and vitamin supplements (74%), which was significantly above use of the next most frequent CAM, massage therapy (6%). Most pharmacists (71%) reported offering CAM products for sale; however, 27% of these practices did not have access to CAM information for pharmacy staff or patients. Pharmacists generally viewed CAM positively and believed that they enhanced the customers' image of pharmacy (57%), increased customer numbers (87%), and could increase annual sales (72%). Ninety-one percent of respondents believed that it is necessary for pharmacists to have knowledge of both CAM and conventional medicine to be able to inform patients about their treatment options. Books and journal articles were their primary information sources, with the main reasons for recommending CAM evidence of efficacy and to maintain general health. CAM use is prevalent among Australian pharmacists. While pharmacists are aware of their role as educators about both CAM and conventional medicines, there is a need for greater access to CAM resources and education on these therapies.
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          Perceptions, use and attitudes of pharmacy customers on complementary medicines and pharmacy practice

          Background Complementary medicines (CMs) are popular amongst Australians and community pharmacy is a major supplier of these products. This study explores pharmacy customer use, attitudes and perceptions of complementary medicines, and their expectations of pharmacists as they relate to these products. Methods Pharmacy customers randomly selected from sixty large and small, metropolitan and rural pharmacies in three Australian states completed an anonymous, self administered questionnaire that had been pre-tested and validated. Results 1,121 customers participated (response rate 62%). 72% had used CMs within the previous 12 months, 61% used prescription medicines daily and 43% had used both concomitantly. Multivitamins, fish oils, vitamin C, glucosamine and probiotics were the five most popular CMs. 72% of people using CMs rated their products as 'very effective' or 'effective enough'. CMs were as frequently used by customers aged 60 years or older as younger customers (69% vs. 72%) although the pattern of use shifted with older age. Most customers (92%) thought pharmacists should provide safety information about CMs, 90% thought they should routinely check for interactions, 87% thought they should recommend effective CMs, 78% thought CMs should be recorded in customer's medication profile and 58% thought pharmacies stocking CMs should also employ a complementary medicine practitioner. Of those using CMs, 93% thought it important for pharmacists to be knowledgeable about CMs and 48% felt their pharmacist provides useful information about CMs. Conclusions CMs are widely used by pharmacy customers of all ages who want pharmacists to be more involved in providing advice about these products.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia
            [2 ]Southern Cross Plant Science, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia
            Contributors
            Journal
            BMC Complement Altern Med
            BMC Complement Altern Med
            BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
            BioMed Central
            1472-6882
            2012
            10 October 2012
            : 12
            : 183
            23051066
            3511229
            1472-6882-12-183
            10.1186/1472-6882-12-183
            Copyright ©2012 Culverhouse and Wohlmuth; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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