The Controversy Over Blackmores Deal with Pharmacies
Most of you would have heard something about the Blackmores “Coke and Fries” deal with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia in the last week or so.
Controversy has absolutely erupted in the media over this new agreement.
The basic rundown of the situation is that the Guild has struck a deal with Blackmores whereby Pharmacists will be prompted to recommend Blackmores dietary supplements (“Companion Products”) when patients are filling their scripts for certain prescribed medications.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which represents 94 per cent of Australia’s 5200 pharmacies, has agreed to recommend a range of Blackmores Companion products to patients when they pick up prescriptions for antibiotics, blood pressure drugs, cholesterol medicine and proton pump inhibitors.
Under the deal, when a prescription is filled, a prompt in the pharmacist’s computer system will remind them to discuss a particular Blackmores product that has been designed to offset the side effects of their prescription drug.
The four Companions range products will also carry the Pharmacy Guild’s gold cross logo, signifying the group’s endorsement.
These four companion products are expected to cost about $15 each when they enter the market this month.
So what do Pharmacists and Doctors think of this deal?
Not happy Jan.
Many Pharmacists have started advertising their opposition and
Doctors have also begun warning patients about the controversial scheme
and directing pharmacists not to participate.
The head of the Chemist Warehouse group, Damien Gance, said his 189
stores had signs on their dispensaries to tell patients they were not
part of the arrangement.
The bold signs say ”Our pharmacists’ recommendations are NOT FOR
SALE”, before explaining they will not participate in the ”Pharmacy
Guild’s Blackmores endorsement program”.
The Australian Medical Association has accused the Pharmacy Guild of
Australia of putting commercial interests ahead of patients’ health,
claiming the idea is nothing more than an opportunity to up-sell and
“Outrageous”, declares the AMA’s president, Steve Hambleton.
Further to all of this, blogs, forums and opinion pieces everywhere have gone to town on the proposed plan.
Natural Medicine sceptics seem delighted to express their disgust for
not only the idea of up-selling supplements, but for the entire world
of “unproven quackery”.
So is the angry lynch mob getting its way?
It usually does.
In a sign the Pharmacy Guild is backing away from the famed deal, it wrote in its latest newsletter that the Blackmores’ prompts in its computer system were a pilot only, which would be reviewed.
”Contrary to some media reports, there is no compulsion whatsoever on pharmacists to sell these products, nor is there any direct incentive to any pharmacist to sell them,” the guild’s newsletter said.
In a recent poll on www.theage.com.au, 94% of people said they did not approve of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s deal with Blackmores.
Spinal Centre Comment
What a mess.
Blackmores Chief Executive did the agreement no favours when she made reference to her company providing the “Coke and Fries” with prescription drugs while creating a “new and important revenue stream” for pharmacies (ah… what was she thinking?).
Even so, the backlash we are seeing from this proposition is remarkable.
By no means do we support the flogging of any one brand of product, however the idea behind the deal is not all bad.
Most prescription drugs have a long list of very real side effects, and some of these can be avoided or minimised with appropriate supplementation.
When you research your regular cholesterol lowering statin drug, it is sobering to find a list of warnings and side effects that include; stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, excessive wind, vomiting, reflux, headache, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, dizziness, sleeplessness or disturbed sleep, numbness, pins and needles, altered colour vision, inflammation of the liver, liver damage, jaundice, muscle aches and wasting, pain, and depression.
It is well known that statins are responsible for depleting CoQ10 levels, causing many of these side effects, so why shouldn’t a CoEnzyme Q10 supplement be recommended when you take a statin drug?
The real problem with this controversial partnership lies in the method of acquiring these supplements.
Your local pharmacist may not know your case history when making their recommendations, they may not have the expertise to know which nutritional or herbal supplement product is of superior quality and the most appropriate for your needs and most of all, they may now be beholden to one company – Blackmores.
It is imperative that you get a proper consultation by a qualified health professional that has expertise in natural medicine when taking any of these types of products.
Has this deal unleashed a vitriolic attack against all Natural Medicine?
A new article in the Sunday Age called ‘Trick or Treat’ really exposed some ignorance in terms of what is being projected about “Complimentary Medicine”.
The contentious article throws around ideas from Professor Alastair MacLennon, head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Adelaide University, a staunch objector to any “potions, poisons and placebos”.
He discusses the dangers of these “untested” medicines and says the public needs to be protected from Alternative Medicine’s “false claims and unproven and possibly dangerous therapies”.
Now let me just interrupt here.
An important point to remember is that just because something is promoted as ‘natural’, this does NOT mean that it is completely safe in all circumstances.
This reaffirms the need for patients to seek out trained practitioners to provide proper guidance and support for all medications and supplements being used.
Just as you wouldn’t jump onto a Proton Pump Inhibitor for your reflux without the recommendation from a Doctor, you shouldn’t self prescribe natural medicines without proper knowledge either.
Dr Hooper’s guidance ensures positive patient outcomes.
In saying this however, how many people do you see keeling over in the streets due to an overdose of fish oil?
I’m being facetious here, but it is astounding the scaremongering tactics some medicos use against ‘dangerous natural medicines’ yet fail to mention the staggering mortality rate due to pharmaceutical drugs.
The number of deaths and hospitalisations caused by prescription drugs has risen precipitously in the past decade, with overdoses of pain medications, in particular opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers, more than doubling between 1999 and 2006, according to recent studies.
Moreover, to say that complimentary medicines are untested is simply wrong.
There are tens of thousands of studies (ranging from lab to animal to clinical trials) demonstrating evidence for herbs and natural supplements.
To blanketly say they are untested shows a considerable lack of awareness (or a purposely turned blind eye).
Take away message…
Despite the outcry, the idea behind this scheme does have merit.
At best, it is shifting the presumption that a pharmaceutical drug is the answer to all health concerns. By making the average consumer aware of natural remedies, there is the opportunity to promote holistic care on a wider scale.
Furthermore, it may just encourage us to take more responsibility for our health.
Where the scheme falters is that recommendations are based on a limited product range and rudimentary nutritional and herbal medicine knowledge within the pharmacy. There is also too much potential for a one-size-fits-all prescription.
This is where Genetic Testing fits in.
It is now possible and achievable to discover your unique DNA blueprint. This test does not forecast dire warnings about health necessarily but rather is an exciting opportunity to identify those nutrients that can significantly improve your health.
Imagine knowing EXACTLY what nutrients were appropriate for you and why?
A huge benefit of being a member of Spinal Centres is that you are also not limited to one product range, unlike the Pharmacies.
Dr Hooper has the unique advantage of recommending products from our wide selection of Practitioner Only brands. Your health advice is therefore not based on sales targets nor a limited dispensary.
Talk to Dr Hooper about which supplements or tests are right for you.