CAM Education

Consumers’ thoughts on pharmacists regarding complementary meds

little-guy2Researchers at the University of South Australia, in Adelaide, explored consumer expectations, perceptions, and satisfaction of their pharmacist.

First, the details.

  • 20 pharmacists and 20 healthcare consumers were recruited across 16 metropolitan community pharmacies.
  • Semi-structured interviews containing comparable questions for both groups were used.

And, the results.

  • There was high consumer satisfaction with pharmacists as complementary medicine providers.
    • This agreed with pharmacists’ perceptions of consumer satisfaction.
  • However, this consumer satisfaction occurred against a background of low consumer expectations and pharmacists’ dissatisfaction with their own role in the interaction.
  • Consumers often perceived pharmacy-stocked complementary medicines to be more effective and safer compared to those in supermarkets or health food shops.
    • Pharmacists did not share this perception.
  • Pharmacists believed they had significant influence around recommendations and use of complementary medicines.
    • Consumers perceived a more limited influence.
  • Both pharmacists and consumers shared similar perceptions of complementary medicine safety and similar expectations regarding business influence and professional pressures on information provision.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Behind a perception of high satisfaction, consumers have low expectations of pharmacists around provision of complementary medicine-related information.”

It appears there are many disconnects between the two groups; but the findings that consumers view pharmacists positively despite having low expectations offers an opportunity.

I hear from my friends that there’s pressure from chain pharmacies in the community to expand the role of pharmacy technicians at pharmacists’ expense. Historically we know that pharmacists distinguish themselves through their pharmaceutical knowledge. The key is to apply clinical pharmacy practice as a reliable source of information on CAM to healthcare professional and consumers.

It’s time for pharmacy curricula and practice to expand further into CAM.

3/4/13 12:49 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.