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Poor advice from pharmacies

25th September 2008

A consumer survey has suggested staff at UK pharmacies often give inappropriate advice to patients.

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The study by Which? magazine also found that some of the information given was occasionally dangerous.

The magazine’s researcher visited 101 pharmacies and claimed they received "unsatisfactory" advice on a third of occasions.

In some instances, powerful migraine drugs were sold without any supervision by the pharmacist.

The government and pharmacy organisations want to see some medicines previously only available with a GP prescription to be dispensed over the counter.

But Which? says pharmacy staff are not always asking the right questions of patients before selling the prescriptions.

Independent pharmacists were found to be most likely to give out the wrong advice.

Which? tested pharmacies over three scenarios: a request to buy migraine medication; a patient complaining of two weeks' of diarrhoea after returning from abroad; and a request for the "morning-after pill".

The latter was designed to test how much a patient’s privacy was respected but several pharmacists asked the woman questions about her sex life within earshot of other customers.

Which? editor Neil Fowler said: "People are increasingly turning to pharmacies for the sort of advice they might have gone to their GP for in the past - but we're concerned that in some cases they're getting advice which is unsuitable and potentially unsafe."

The National Pharmacy Association, which represents community pharmacies, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society acknowledged there was room for improvement.

A Department of Health spokesman said its research had shown the public was satisfied with pharmacy services.

 

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