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Pharmacist up-selling concerns aired

AAP logoAAP 27/07/2016 Belinda Merhab

It's feared patients are being sold medicines they don't need when they walk into their local chemist by pharmacists seeking profits.

An independent panel, tasked by the federal government to review the regulation and pay of pharmacists, has raised concerns about the role of pharmacists as both retailers and healthcare professionals.

It's heard that some consumers worry their pharmacist may be unnecessarily up-selling them over-the-counter products or complementary medicines they don't need to make money.

It's also heard concerns about whether complementary medicines, such as vitamins, with no evidence-based health benefits should be sold in pharmacies at all, given it could "misinform consumers of their effectiveness".

The discussion paper, released on Wednesday, has called for pharmacy and community feedback on the industry, including whether pharmacists should take a greater role in providing care to patients.

It's asking for feedback on whether complementary products should be available at pharmacies.

Consumers Health Forum chief executive Leanne Wells says it's an issue that needs to be examined carefully.

She says there are already grounds for concern in the prominent place complementary medicines have in pharmacies.

"Many of these products do not have proven efficacy and their marketing by pharmacists, whose credibility rests on evidence-based medicine, requires action," she told AAP.

It would be a blow to patients if pharmacists exploited the trust placed in them by recommending products for financial return rather than patient need, she said.

The forum wants complementary medicine labels to state whether or not the medicines regulator has confirmed their therapeutic claims.

"At the moment Australians are spending more than a billion dollars a year on pills and potions that have no demonstrable benefit," Ms Wells said.

The discussion paper is also seeking feedback on whether the cost of medicines is too expensive for some consumers and whether pharmacists should be allowed to provide bigger discounts.

A final report will be handed to Health Minister Sussan Ley by March 2017.

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