March 15, 2017 (via email) and Response

The Board of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia
Attn:  Mr George Tambassis –  National President
RE: Four Corners – ‘Swallowing it’

Dear Mr Tambassis,

On behalf of the Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association (ANPA) I write to you in regards to the ABC Four Corners program ‘Swallowing It’ aired on Monday February 13th 2017.  As one of the groups interviewed for the program I thought it was important to respond directly to your board. The ANPA has been proudly serving the profession of naturopaths since 1975. We understand that a collaborative model offers the best patient centred model of care and pharmacists are an integral part of the health team.

Much of the program was important and correct, however there are some issues I would like to draw to the attention of your board.

An aspect of the program that particularly alarmed our association was directing the public back to pharmacists as the ‘trusted’ authorities for CAM.  As you well know many pharmacists have no formal training in CAM. Significant floor space is devoted to CAM in many pharmacies across the country.

The Four Corners program implied that pharmacists receive education or training in CAM. This message misinforms the public.

Naturopaths are the experts with specialty knowledge when it comes to herbal remedies and nutritional supplements. This is backed by a government approved curriculum that includes these two modalities. Nutritional medicine and herbal medicine are clearly in the scope of practice of all naturopaths.  There are many of your guild members who employ naturopaths in their pharmacies for this very reason.  The scope and education for pharmacists does not include education to anywhere near the standard required for naturopaths in  herbal medicine and nutritional medicine.   This was not highlighted in the program.

Geoff Thompson and his Four Corners team chose not to include any naturopathic perspectives in the program, which we believe was a serious oversight. If the ABC purports to have the public’s safety and interest as a priority, then why were the most relevant experts excluded?

The ANPA would like to broker more opportunities for the public to access well trained naturopaths in conducive settings in pharmacies. We are advocating for separate and private space for naturopaths to offer proper consultations in pharmacies. This  model is already operating in some pharmacies for pharmacists who have more recently increased their scope of practice. What the public receive when they self-select off a retail shelf is a very different experience to that of a proper consultation from a trained professional naturopath.  This was not highlighted in the program, which was a significant oversight. For naturopaths over the counter support is relevant for acute conditions. However, many seeking CAM advice need far more detailed case taking.

We are aiming to raise the standards for the profession of naturopathy. We need your assistance to achieve this within the pharmacy setting.

We do encourage the judicious prescribing of supplements with certain drugs. How the media chose to misinterpret this good effort some months ago was appalling. There is substantial evidence to support the depletions of many nutrients when clients take certain drugs long-term. We see the lack of this support for the public regularly in clinical practice.

The TGA does need an overhaul. Both the public and practitioners need reassurance that an ‘L’ number on a product can be trusted.

As a member of the advisory panel to the health minister for the Natural Therapies Review please be aware that the ‘review’  only assessed the ‘health practice’ of a profession, not the natural medicines or tools of trade that a profession may use. This is a very important distinction.

In fact, natural medicines were specifically left out of the review  because of the sheer volume of data that reviewers could not possibly assess within the constraints of the review. In other words, too much data and evidence in the databases for herbal medicines, nutritional medicines, other natural medicines and lifestyle interventions.

The omission of this important detail in the ABC program was another oversight. Biasing the public with supposed supporting evidence for the story was problematic. The ABC as a trusted source of investigative journalism is brought into question.

“Swallowing it” had some very serious factual errors and omissions. The ANPA requests that these matters be brought to the attention of your board.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

B.Naturopathy, BSc Public Health, Med.Tech
ANPA President

March 17, 2017 – Response from The Pharmacy Guild of Australia

Dear Ms Brand

Thank you for your email to George Tambassis, National President of the Pharmacy Guild.  George, thanks you for your correspondence and as asked that I let you know your email will be provided to our National Council at its next meeting, however we would like to suggest contacting the ABC with your concerns.

George also wanted me to let you know that during the filming, he was asked specific questions and he answered them and most of the questions and answers were edited out.  In fact,  George was interviewed for about 1 hour and only two answers went to air.  Many questions that they asked him had nothing to do with CAM.

Kind regards

Natalie Perry
EA to George Tambassis, National President
EA to David Quilty, Executive Director

National Secretariat
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia