Pharmacy World and Science

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 366–373 | Cite as

Community pharmacists in Australia: barriers to information provision on complementary and alternative medicines

  • Susan J. SempleEmail author
  • Elizabeth Hotham
  • Deepa Rao
  • Karen Martin
  • Caroline A. Smith
  • Geraldine F. Bloustien
Research Article



To determine, by surveying Australian community pharmacists, the perceived barriers to the provision of information about complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) and suggestions for overcoming them.


Anonymous, self-administered survey sent to a random sample of 701 pharmacists registered in three states of Australia in 2004.

Main outcome measure

Pharmacists’ perceived barriers to the provision of information about CAMs.


A total of 344 questionnaires were returned by pharmacists (49% response) of which 211 (30%) were currently practising in community pharmacy. Ninety-five percent of surveyed community pharmacists indicated that they personally received enquires about CAMs, with fewer than 15% reporting they were “very confident” in answering queries about safety, interactions or benefits of CAMs. Frequently used CAM information sources were those from manufacturers and distributors, professional newsletters and journals and textbooks. Pharmacists’ perceived barriers to the provision of CAM information included a lack of suitable training (most training was informal), deficiencies in available information sources, a lack of managerial support, the need for regulatory changes, consumer beliefs about CAM safety and time constraints due to competing demands in daily practice. Pharmacists proposed improvements to overcome these barriers including improvements to training.


There is scope for pharmacy professional organisations and educational institutions to further support pharmacists in their practice through providing information on the best information sources available and training that meets the needs of undergraduate students, pharmacists and other pharmacy staff. There is a need to examine regulatory requirements concerning the provision of product information with CAMs in Australia and to implement mechanisms for increasing consumer awareness of regulatory procedures for these medicines.


Australia Barriers CAMs Community pharmacy Complementary and alternative medicines Consumer information Pharmacists Training 



We thank the Pharmacy Boards of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland for their assistance in the mailing of questionnaires. This study was supported with funding from a University of South Australia Collaborative Grant.


  1. 1.
    MacLennan A, Myers S, Taylor A. The continuing use of complementary and alternative medicine in South Australia: costs and beliefs in 2004. Med J Aust 2006;184:27–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Expert Committee on Complementary Medicines in the Health System. Complementary medicines in the Australian health system. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2003. ISBN 1 920746 18 8.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Australian Self Medication Industry. ASMI and complementary medicine – market distribution and access to complementary medicines; 2002. (23 Jan 2006).
  4. 4.
    Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing Therapeutic Goods Administration. Medicines regulation and the TGA; 2004. (15 May 2006).
  5. 5.
    Barnes J, Abbot NC. Experiences with complementary remedies: a survey of community pharmacists. Pharm J 1999;263(7063):R37.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dolder C, Lacro J, Dolder N, Gregory P. Pharmacists’ use of and beliefs about alternative medicines. Am J Health Syst Pharm 2003;60:1352–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Koh H, Teo H, Ng H. Pharmacists’ patterns of use, knowledge and attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine. J Altern Complement Med 2003;9(1):51–63.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hutchinson S, Mitchell K, Hansford D, Stewart D. Community pharmacists’ views and experiences of counter-prescribing in pregnancy Int J Pharm Pract 2001;9(1):15–21.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Brown C, Barner J, Shah S. Community pharmacists’ actions when patients use complementary and alternative therapies with medications. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash DC) 2005;45:41–7.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Howard N, Tsourounis C, Kapusnik-Uner J. Dietary supplement survey of pharmacists: personal and professional practices. J Altern Complement Med 2001;7(6):667–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Naidu S, Wilkinson J, Simpson M. Attitudes of Australian pharmacists toward complementary and alternative medicines. Ann Pharmacother 2005;39:1456–61.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dooley M, Lee DY-L, Marriott J. Practitioners’ sources of clinical information on complementary and alternative medicine in oncology. Support Care Cancer 2004;12:114–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Smith C, Martin K, Hotham E, Semple S, Bloustien G, Rao D. Naturopaths practice behaviour: provision and access to information on complementary and alternative medicines. BMC Complement Altern Med 2005;5:15. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-5-15.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Welna E, Hadsall R, Schommer J. Pharmacists’ personal use, professional practice behaviors and perceptions regarding herbal and other natural products. J Am Pharm Assoc 2003;43(5):602–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    SPSS Inc. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. Version 11.5.1. Chicago: SPSS Inc; 2002.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Moulds RFW. Drugs and poisons scheduling. Aust Prescr 1997; 20:12–3.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Sweet B, Gay W, Leady M, Stumpf J. Usefulness of herbal and dietary supplement references. Ann Pharmacother 2003;37:494–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Chambliss W, Hufford C, Flagg M, Glisson J. Assessment of the quality of reference books on botanical dietary supplements. J Am Pharm Assoc 2002;42(5):723–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Nathan J, Cicero L, Koumis T, Rosenberg JM, Feifer S, Maltz F. Availability of and attitudes toward resources on alternative medicine products in the community pharmacy setting. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash DC) 2005;45(6):734–9.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    MacLennan A, Wilson D, Taylor A. The escalating cost and prevalence of alternative medicine. Prev Med 2002;35:166–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Dutta A, Daftary M, Ayuk Egbe P, Kang H. State of CAM education in U.S. schools of pharmacy: results of a national survey. J Am Pharm Assoc 2003;43(1):81–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Shields K, McQueen C, Bryant P. Natural product education in schools of pharmacy in the United States. Am J Pharm Educ 2003;67(1):43–8.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Shah B, Siganga W, Mallya U, Shah S. Pharmacy student perspectives on classroom education about herbal supplements. Am J Pharm Educ 2005;69(5):1–6.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Pharmacy labour force to 2001. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 2003. ISBN 1 74024 256 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan J. Semple
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elizabeth Hotham
    • 1
  • Deepa Rao
    • 1
  • Karen Martin
    • 1
  • Caroline A. Smith
    • 2
  • Geraldine F. Bloustien
    • 3
  1. 1.Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, Sansom Institute, School of Pharmacy and Medical SciencesUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Allied Health EvidenceUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Hawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies and School of Communication Information and New MediaUniversity of South AustraliaMagillAustralia

Personalised recommendations