Is your pharmacist giving you the right advice?

A CHOICE shadow shop of 240 pharmacies including Priceline Australia, Chemist Warehouse and Terry White Chemmart has found many are recommending alternative medicines that have little to no scientific evidence for their effectiveness.

Worryingly, when asked about what they could recommend for stress, 26% of pharmacists recommended products based on Bach flower remedies (see below). Keep an eye out for the full report to be featured on ABC’s Four Corners.


It’s a lot of ‘bach’ & humbug!

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As they say, as they are principally Aust-L labelled (L for light on facts they actually work), their efficacy is questionable and possibly the price one pays for a placebo effect.

Having a celebrity to endorse such products in one thing, a qualified pharmaist is other.

I find that guidance to these placebos (or is that assistance) in a larger chemist is usually given by sales staff as the pharmacist is often busy dispensing prescription medicines/drugs.

Is the 26% actual pharmacists (confirmed after advice given) or recommendations by floor staff who often are only sales staff but often look like some sort of medically trained person?

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Surely grounds for immediate de-registration.

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@phb, I have confirmed that the 26% were actual pharmacists. The shadow shop involved consumers going into a pharmacy and asking to speak to qualified pharmacist, which I’m told they were able to achieve around 80% of the time. If the shadow shoppers couldn’t speak to a pharmacist for whatever reason, the visit was not included in the study. Hope that helps :slight_smile:

I guess this is merely a consequence of

  1. the increasing fiscal tightening placed on prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies by successive governments,
  2. the corporatisation trend, and
  3. the growing number of pharmacies competing for the customer dollar.

Pharmacists were trusted members of the community because you could get unbiased advice (or so it was believed) from them in relation to treating maladies.

This finding of profit over science should seriously erode the trust placed in them.


Thanks Brendan.

That is very concerning especially as pharmacists have a science background (university training principally in science) and must know that evidence on almost all supplements/complementary ‘medicines’ is lacking, and where research has been done, many are equivalent to a placebo.

Recommending such discredits pharmacists, a profession which historically has a high level of respect and trust.

Recommending supplements/complementary ‘medicines’ is akin to a car dealership recommending the installation of a fuel saving device on a new car to ‘save fuel consumption’, when the dealer knows such devices don’t work and are in effect, a waste of money.

Unfortunately one does not know what difference it makes, but one can only assumes it does because a person who should know, recommended it. This creates a false promise which is highly unethical.


Could this be because like me, people often ask for safer products than the pharmaceutical drugs pushed by the industry? Good on chemists for pointing out alternatives that are far less harmful when asked.
As for Bach Flower remedies, I wouldn’t be without them as they work wonders calming down animals, children and adults too. This scaremongering is just big pharma trying to discredit the competition because people are finding alternatives that work and drug companies are losing market share.
As for the 4 Corners program, you can get all sorts of opinions depending on who you ask. There is another side that maybe one day they will also cover in the program. In the meantime people like me for whom herbs, chiropractic and homeopathy work a treat will continue using them.

Our political parties and their economic ideologies contrast in social good vs personal good and rarely allow the concepts to intersect. Truth is in practice they are more alike than different, but their words set the tone and their legislation sets their concept of the “right” balance.

One outcome is that society is increasingly a “me, my, mine” world and under capitalism the profit motive is supreme. Public businesses not delivering sufficiently high, not just good, profits will close as the martkets pummel their shares. Private businesses need to compete against those much larger dog-eat-dog ones. They all try to do what they do for survival of their business, and thus themselves, in the modern world.

It might not be long before we experience the American advertisements for prescription drugs that cannot be bought over the counter. The drugs are hard sold in the ad followed with “consult your doctor to see if it is right for you”. It is not just pharmacists who are swayed by monetary considerations.


The other issue is thete is an expectation by individuals that everything can be solved by a ‘pill’.

This is possibly why there is over prescription of medications as doctors feel obliged to give a script to parients who have expectations for a ‘pill’ to fix them.

Similarly, where specific medications don’t exist for an ailment, or due to other reasons, individuals turn to natural therapies hoping the ‘pill’ also solves their ailment. This might be one of the reasons why pharmacists recommend ‘placebos’ or other natural therapies with dubious or mixed scientific effacy results. There is an expectation by the customer in the chemist to have a quick fix ‘pill’. Pharmacists are only delivering on this expectation whilst also profiting from it.

If such expectations did not exist, possibly chemists would look quite different.

We have possibly also been conditioned by the media, pharmaceutical marketing/advertorials and the health insustry to have a pill solution, when in reality many ailments resolve themselves over time by the human body…whilst others which don’t have a quick fix pill must be managed through changes in diets or lifestyle choices. Theses are not the quick fixes many now expect and hope the natural therapies provide the solution.

One must also realise that the natural therapy industry are profiting from this expectation and have huge profit margins on the products they sell.