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AMA concerned by Blackmores pharmacy deal -

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The Pharmacy Guild is under fire over a deal which will see its members prompted to recommend
certain Blackmores products when dispensing common prescription medicines. The Australian Medical
Association says it has great concerns about the agreement, which it says appears to put commercial
interests ahead of patients' needs.

ASHLEY HALL: The country's peak medical body says it has great concerns about a deal which will see
pharmacists prompted to recommend supplementary medicines to consumers.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has struck an agreement with the company Blackmores to promote the
company's products with certain prescription drugs.

The Australian Medical Association says it appears commercial interests are being put ahead of
patients' needs and doctors should know. They've previously been accused of doing the same.

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: The Pharmacy Guild says it's thrilled about the deal with Blackmore's.

Under it, pharmacists dispensing medicines for several common conditions will receive a prompt in
their computer system to promote a complementary Blackmores product.

The guild says the four Blackmore products in the Companions range have been designed specifically
to offset possible side-effects of common prescription drugs.

The nation's peak medical body is less than thrilled.

Steve Hambleton is the president of the Australian Medical Association.

STEVE HAMBLETON: It appears to be an opportunity for up-selling.

I mean, we rely on our pharmacy colleagues to actually assist us in healthcare of the patient, and
there's a very good relationship between doctors and pharmacists and I'd hate to see anything
undermine that.

That sort of advice from a professional pharmacist will have a great impact on patients and they
may well decide to choose those products. And we know some patients won't even take all of their
medicines because of the price.

I'd hate to think that they'd substitute one of their prescribed medicines for one of these
companion products.

BARBARA MILLER: Why do you think the Pharmacy Guild would go ahead and do such a deal?

STEVE HAMBLETON: Well, I don't really understand it, to be frank. You know, the pharmacy- the
standing of pharmacists in the community is almost, well, it is almost at the top in terms of
trust, and I think anything that undermines that is going to be bad for pharmacists across the
board.

The suggestion they are going to sell these products in something like 58 million claims for PBS
prescriptions. Now this is a big financial deal. We can't put finances ahead of the health of a
patient.

BARBARA MILLER: GPs are sometimes prompted by their computer system to recommend certain medicines
to patients.

The AMA president says that's different.

STEVE HAMBLETON: If you had a particular medical problem, you may benefit from some medicines to
fix that problem and diabetes is a good example. There is a range of medicines that actually
improve the healthcare for diabetics. They have all got evidence. They are all TGA registered. They
all can do what they say they do.

The difference here is, we're talking about complementary or unconventional products where the
evidence base is... well, much poorer, and we need to see the evidence that these products actually
do what they say they do and are worth paying for.

I guess that's the big difference.

BARBARA MILLER: The president of the Pharmacy Guild Kos Sclavos was in transit and unavailable to
speak to AM.

A spokesman for the guild said Mr Sclavos was satisfied Blackmores had good evidence to allow
pharmacists to make the recommendations. The spokesman said Mr Sclavos rejects suggestions the deal
is commercially motivated.

No payment has been received by the guild. However, its subsidiary Gold Cross is likely to receive
payment from Blackmores for agreeing to endorse the four companion products with the Gold Cross
logo.

The scheme is due to take effect from October the 1st.

ASHLEY HALL: Barbara Miller.