Pharmacists, customers should be able to decide: professionals on King Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation

DROP IT: Homeopathy should banned from pharmacy shelves, according to the interim report of a federal review panel. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

DROP IT: Homeopathy should banned from pharmacy shelves, according to the interim report of a federal review panel. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

HOMEOPATHIC products should remain on shelves for pharmacists and customers to decide on between themselves, according to some professionals in the region.

A federal review says they should not be sold in pharmacies because this poses “unacceptable risks”.

But pharmacists contacted by The Leader said many customers found them helpful and they should not be summarily banned from sale.

The issue is in question in the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, also known as the King review.

Its interim report states that the expert panel’s intent was to “present options rather than draft recommendations”, and that “not all members agree with all options”.

On homeopathic products, though, the panel appears to take a clear stance: “[They] should not be sold in PBS-approved pharmacies.”

The reasons given are that they “have sufficient evidence of non-efficacy to preclude their ethical sale in community pharmacies”.

Their sale “risks creating a perception of reliability and efficacy … based on the status of the pharmacy as a healthcare provider”.

“This may encourage patients to choose a homeopathic product over a conventional medicine with robust evidence of efficacy, which creates a risk of harm to the patient’s health.”

What our pharmacists say

Pharmacist Karen Carter, who has shops in Gunnedah and Narrabri, said while homeopathy had “limited evidence”, she wouldn’t like to see the government “making a blanket rule pulling everything off the shelf”.

“Lots of pharmacies have lots of different products, so it’s up to individual pharmacists what they stock and what they’ve found works for their customers.”

Mrs Carter said pharmacy was an “ever-changing landscape”.

“Pharmacy changes so frequently; medicines that were never used for certain conditions are now being used for those conditions … that’s why we have to keep up to date with all our knowledge to be able to give the best information to the customer and patient on their products and condition.”

Chemist Warehouse Tamworth Central’s Urooj Zubair said it was “all about benefits versus interactions”, including complementary medicines such as homeopathy.

“Homeopathic products are not very well-documented as far as interactions are concerned ... but as long as the customers are aware of asking the pharmacist if it’s OK to be taken with their other medication, they should be available like other products like multivitamins.”

She said “around 50 or 60 per cent of customers” asked pharmacists for advice before purchasing such products – one reason they should be kept on shelves.

“If we’re confident enough we say: that’s fine, other times we say: due to possible interactions with your other medications it may be best to check with your GP.”

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is based on the idea that if a substance causes symptoms in a healthy person, minute doses of the substance can treat the symptoms in someone who is unwell. 

Homeopathic medicines are prepared by taking a substance (generally a plant, animal material or a chemical) and diluting that substance in water or alcohol repeatedly.

These highly diluted preparations can be found in several forms, including tablets, liquids and creams.

There is currently no evidence to support the effectiveness of homeopathy in the prevention or treatment of any disease.

‘Attack on a person’s right to choose’

Australian Homeopathic Association (AHA) secretary, and a homeopath of 16 years, Petrina Reichman, said it was an outright attack on a person’s right to choose and access the healthcare of their choice.

“These are popular and effective homeopathic remedies that families across Australia are using for common health conditions and they will be gone off pharmacy shelves,” she said.

“The review is scaremongering. There is a growing body of good-quality, clinical research studies worldwide that show efficacy and effectiveness in treating a number of clinical conditions including sinusitis, hay fever, upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea in children, middle-ear infections and lower back pain.”