Objective The widespread sale of complementary medicines in community pharmacy raises important questions regarding the responsibilities of pharmacists when selling complementary medicines. This study reviews the academic literature that explores a pharmacist’s responsibilities when selling complementary medicines.
Methods International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, Embase, PubMed, Cinahl, PsycINFO and Philosopher’s index databases were searched for articles written in English and published between 1995 and 2017. Empirical studies discussing pharmacists’ practices or perceptions, consumers’ expectations and normative studies discussing ethical perspectives or proposing ethical frameworks related to pharmacists’ responsibilities in selling complementary medicines were included in the review.
Key findings Fifty‐eight studies met the inclusion criteria. The majority of the studies discussing the responsibilities of pharmacists selling complementary medicines had an empirical focus. Pharmacists and consumers identified counselling and ensuring safe use of complementary medicines as the primary responsibilities of pharmacists. No formal ethical framework is explicitly employed to describe the responsibilities of pharmacists selling complementary medicines. To the degree any ethical framework is employed, a number of papers implicitly rely on principlism. The studies discussing the ethical perspectives of selling complementary medicines mainly describe the ethical conflict between a pharmacist’s business and health professional role. No attempt is made to provide guidance on appropriate ways to resolve the conflict.
Conclusion There is a lack of explicit normative advice in the existing literature regarding the responsibilities of pharmacists selling complementary medicines. This review identifies the need to develop a detailed practice‐specific ethical framework to guide pharmacists regarding their responsibilities when selling complementary medicines.