Pharmacists should provide independent advice, assess patients individually: NPS

27 September 2011

NPS is urging pharmacists to continue to tailor advice to individual patients based on their need and the evidence available, following the announcement of a partnership between Blackmores and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia that will see four complementary medicines recommended alongside prescription medicines.

NPS CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that for health professionals to adhere to quality use of medicines principles, every patient should be assessed on an individual basis.

“Pharmacists are trusted by the community to work independently and in the best interest of the individual patient and it is important that professional standards are met,” says Dr Weekes.

“Companion selling as a routine practice is not an appropriate way for pharmacists to provide individual patients with what they need, and it may cause more confusion about medicines and possibly adverse effects.

“Adding an additional medicine should never be done lightly — especially for people already on multiple medicines, because of the impact on adherence, the cost to the patient, and the potential for interactions with other medicines.”

Offering a complementary medicine as a companion product to every person taking a particular prescription medicine ‘just in case’ is not best practice, according to Dr Weekes.

“Pharmacists should offer advice based on evidence and the clinical presentation of the person, and in the case of complementary medicines, evidence of efficacy is often limited,” says Dr Weekes.

“If someone has, or suspects they have, a deficiency or other side effect that is a result of taking a prescription medicine, it is important for them to see their doctor and ask questions about their medicine.”

Anyone with questions about the medicines they have been offered, including how the medicine works, possible side effects and interactions with other medicines, can contact the Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from anywhere in Australia (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm EST).

Update – 4 October 2011: NPS has examined the evidence purporting to support the use of these complementary medicines and has published a review on our website:


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.