Improving pharmacy practice in relation to complementary medicines: a qualitative study evaluating the acceptability and feasibility of a new ethical framework in Australia


Background: There is a need for clearer guidance for pharmacists regarding their responsibilities when selling complementary medicines. A recently published ethical framework provides guidance regarding the specific responsibilities that pharmacists need to meet in order to fulfil their professional obligations and make a positive contribution to health outcomes when selling complementary medicines. Objective: Evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a new ethical framework for the sale of complementary medicines in community pharmacy. Methods: Australian community pharmacists were invited to participate in online focus groups and interviews. Participants were recruited via multiple methods, including social media and the professional networks of pharmacy groups. Participants were provided the ethical framework prior to the discussion. Discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Seventeen community pharmacists participated in the study (11 in 4 focus groups and 6 in individual interviews).There was good representation among participants in terms of gender, years of practice, pharmacy location and script volume. Participants differed in how proactive they were in relation to selling and providing advice on complementary medicines, how they interpreted evidence in relation to complementary medicines, and how they navigated their practice within the retail environment of community pharmacy. The majority of participants found the framework was acceptable for practice and was feasible for implementation with targeted support. Participants identified two important areas for targeted support in implementing the framework: improved access to evidence-based information resources on complementary medicines and independent evidence-based education and training on complementary medicine for pharmacists and pharmacy support staff. Conclusion: The ethical framework addresses an important gap in providing specific professional guidance to pharmacists when selling complementary medicines. The results of the study suggest that the framework may be acceptable to community pharmacists and be feasible to implement with targeted support.

BMC Medical Ethics