Spare a thought for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. They have a public relations problem following their proposed deal to incorporate Blackmores Companion range of dietary supplements into GuildCare software.
Australian pharmacies supply millions of prescriptions each week. In Australia, each prescription drug has survived rigorous clinical testing, sometimes over many years; yet from time to time, complications arise with some patients with some drugs.
The Guild came up with a brilliant coup.
What if every time a potentially problematic drug was dispensed, it was flagged to prompt the pharmacist to suggest the customer also purchase an appropriate Blackmores supplement?
Win, win, win; for the customer, the pharmacist, and of course, Blackmores!
Unfortunately, what seemed like a good idea at the time has backfired badly. Reactions to this announcement were swift, and must have come as a bit of a shock.
The Press Worried About It
Doctors Didn’t Like It
Their first reaction was to check their calendars to make sure it was September 26 and not April 1. They then used a variety of forums to lambaste the idea, their criticisms being:
- Complications from prescription drugs occur in a minority of patients. If all patients receive the supplement it will be both expensive and unnecessary for the majority.
- Such complications should be followed up on a patient-by-patient basis and may require pathology to determine the problem.
- Doctors prefer to be in charge of their patient’s drug regimes – not to be second-guessed by pharmacists.
- The supplements suggested are complementary medicines. Like many Blackmores products, they have not been subjected to the rigorous clinical testing required for the original prescribed drugs. In fact their medical value has in some cases been seriously questioned; the Scientific literature provides little or no evidence of their efficacy.
- Complementary medicines are as likely as orthodox medicines to interact in situ with other drugs in unexpected and dangerous ways.
Here’s comment by Dr Mick Vagg which first appeared in his Fish Slapper of the Week on Skepticbros.com.
The Independent National Prescribing Service Condemned It
“Companion selling as a routine practice is not an appropriate way for pharmacists to provide individual patients with what they need, and it may cause more confusion about medicines and possibly adverse effects.”
Even Pharmacists Didn’t Like It
* Guild endorsement of Blackmores CAMs backfires
* Blackmores deal contravenes legislation:APESMA:
(both AusPharm e news Tuesday 27 September 2011)
Many pharmacists made comments in on-line forums.
Some said that The Guild represents pharmacy owners rather than working pharmacists.
Some commented anonymously for fear of victimisation by the owner-employer. They questioned the ethical basis of the deal on the grounds of individual health care.
Some questioned the ethicality of dealing with Blackmores to the exclusion of other providers.
Some commented on the extreme bad timing of the announcement. Alternative medicine has recently come under greater scrutiny in Australia, and the deal had the effect of portraying pharmacists as unprofessional profiteers.
Comments also included the view that genuine pharmacists would politely take on board The Guild’s suggestions then, as in the past, ignore them in favour of behaving professionally.
Our Solution to the PGA’s Image Problem
One has to admire the determination of the Pharmacy Guild to benefit its members. Such a sense of Mission (despite the carpings of nay-sayers) deserves a reward. So we’ve written a song, to the tune of Marching Through Georgia, a stirring Union rallying cry of the American Civil War. Listen to it here:
Once in ancient history the Guild promoted Health
Now we’re better managed and we’ve changed our course by stealth
Now our Prime Directive is increasing member’s wealth;
So we are touting for Blackmores
Hoorah! Hoorah! We own a Pharmacy.
Hoorah! Hoorah! Though our advice is free;
Along with each prescription what an earner this will be,
Now we are touting for Blackmores
The scripts had rigorous trialling, but the customer won’t mind
If point-of-sale supplements aren’t tested double-blind,
“Pill-Pushing Snake-Oil Sellers”- why are people so unkind –
Just ’cause we’re touting for Blackmores?