I guess most people have noticed that pharmacies seem to be expanding the range of their stock to include jewelry, perfume, lollies, etc.

It seems redundant, but if it works for them, why not?

But the core of their business is health related products, and most fundamentally, the dispensing of prescription medications.

Pharmacists are well trained, and have a high degree of credibility. Not unreasonably, they take advantage of this, and their advertising suggests that one good reason to buy goods from a pharmacy that could be bought elsewhere is the quality of advice available.

But Choice Magazine has pointed out that a large number of pharmacies also sell products which do not do what they say they will. These include anti-snor rings, herbal weight loss programmes, plastic ‘power’ bracelets and homeopathic remedies.

Pharmacists should know better. Offering this kind of quackery is a betrayal of their customers’ trust.

“There is an onus on pharmacies to sell products that work and for pharmacists to stand by the safety and effectiveness of products in their store,” said CHOICE spokeswoman Ingrid Just.

“Pharmacists hold a four year specialist degree in chemistry, and consumers rely on their expert advice.”

The sale of non-pharmaceutical products was not an issue, she said, where items for sale did not have a therapeutic of health claim attached to them.

“But when it comes to health products, they should stick to selling ones that are safe, effective and supported by scientific and clinical evidence,” Ms Just said.

The CHOICE probe also asked pharmacists about the efficacy of certain products and some offered “insightful, medically sound advice when asked.” Others were “indifferent or who gave advice on quack products with no scientific or medical basis”.

 Ms Just said the problem was consumers could find themselves out of pocket, and with no relief for the problem they are seeking help for.

“When products don’t work the consumer may not only have wasted their money, they may have also delayed the opportunity to seek more appropriate treatment,” she said.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia agrees.

That’s reassuring.

“Pharmacists take their professional responsibilities very seriously,” a guild spokesman told AAP.

Except that Choice has just found that a significant number of them don’t, at least to the extent of being willing to offer scientific sounding advice on products which have no value whatever.

“The guild agrees with CHOICE’s recommendation that the best course of action is to speak to the pharmacist about any new or novel product you’re considering, and ask for further information.”

No, the best course of action is for the Pharmacy Guild to advise its members that stocking quack products, no matter how profitable, damages the reputation and standing of all pharmacists.

And even more importantly, potentially damages the health of consumers who rely on their advice.

Via John Ray’s Australian Politics Blog