I continue to be amazed at how the wide-reaching inquiry into the future of our profession has been hijacked into a focus on complementary medicines and more specifically homeopathy.
This enquiry, having now published their findings as “options”, seems to have overlooked the wide-ranging expectations as to how pharmacists can be used more effectively to reduce illness costs to the Australian taxpayer.
Instead, the media focus (much to the delight of vested interests within the illness system) has been on how “unregulated, unsupervised” and in a few reports how “potentially dangerous” complementary medicines and nutritional support products actually are.
The media bias is quite unbelievable.
If the safety of the public is to be up front, compare this recent report.
The AMH advises the following as prescribing guidelines when it comes to proton pump inhibitors under the heading “practice points”:
- Assess ongoing PPI use regularly, especially for dyspepsia or GORD; if symptoms are well controlled, consider:
- stopping treatment (unless patient has severe oesophagitis or complicated disease)
- intermittent use when symptoms develop step down to low-dose therapy.
The AMH goes on to point out some possible “associations” between PPI use and increased risk of Clostridium difficile infection, pneumonia, decreased serum B12, and fracture.
The grand daddy of them all has appeared this week.
A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, published in the BMJ, says that “those on PPIs have a 50 per cent increased risk of dying over the next five years”.
Some media gave this report a little bit of space, but in my practice, I see many patients on long term PPIs for which there seems to be no justifiable cause. My patients have been on them for so long they can’t even remember what they are taking them for! No intervention from the pharmacist, no comment from the prescribing GP.
ASMI has the predictably responded within a few days, as any defender of the brands involved here would be expected to do.
But what response to the King enquiry has been publicly given on behalf of the complementary medicine industry?
There’s been a bit of concern expressed at official levels, and a few trickles within the pharmacy media, but many of the smaller complementary medicine companies are genuinely worried about their future within pharmacy.
I would have expected strongly worded opinions of the long-term safety of complementary medicines, the savings to the taxpayer, the opportunities to educate consumers about being “well” compared to being “ill”, especially as the costs of “illness care” continue to rise dramatically.
We have more medical procedures, the best hospitals, the best medicines, the most highly qualified practitioners – yet, the costs of the diseases of ageing continue to rise.
Strong, responsible and accurate defense within the looming battle lines need to be outlined.
Our patients deserve to be better informed of the true facts.
Are pharmacists up to it?