The booming vitamins and supplements industry is a lucrative income stream for pharmacies. But there is, at best, mixed evidence for many of these products...Pharmacists' willingness to make those sales—or simply permit them at their store—diminishes their credibility in March's eyes.
'It makes us look like a bunch of retailers,' he says, 'but we should be a bunch of professionals doing the right thing by everybody.'..
Adam Phillips, a pharmacy industry leader and an advisor to the Therapeutic Goods Administration on the safety of medicines, is troubled by the current direction his industry is taking.
Standing in a suburban Adelaide pharmacy puzzling over a container of pills, he says: 'So the claim on this bottle is that the vitamin B3 will release energy from blood, the 3 being nicotinamide. I don't believe that would be the reality for the majority of healthy people. I actually don't understand that claim on the bottle that well myself.'...
Some pharmacies overtly pursue high sales of vitamins and supplements. Nine years ago the federal government changed PBS rules, effectively reducing the profit that pharmacists could make selling prescription drugs. This made retail sales much more important for pharmacies...
The federal government is now pouring an extra $2.4 billion into community pharmacies, under last year's five year Community Pharmacy Agreement. The Pharmacy Guild, which represents employer pharmacists, negotiated the agreement.
No-one from the Guild was available for interview, but a spokesman pointed Background Briefing to a position statement on complementary medicines, which said pharmacists should provide evidence-based advice only. The spokesman said the Guild was not a regulatory body, so could only provide guidance.
In the meantime, in stores where pharmacists are barely visible behind long rows of supplements, you might instead get your advice from an in-store naturopath. And she might tell you, as she did this reporter, that bilberry is good for your eyes, because bilberry is blue, which means it's good for your upper head area.
'Because if you look at it in terms of your chakras, and the colours that move up, your purple blue colour is in your head area.'"