Reporting natural health product related adverse drug reactions: is it the pharmacist's responsibility?

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Herbal medicines and other natural health products (NHPs) are sold in Canadian pharmacies as over-the-counter products, yet there is limited information on their safety and adverse effect profile. Signals of safety concerns associated with medicines can arise through analysis of reports of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) submitted to national pharmacovigilance centres by health professionals, including pharmacists and the public. However, typically such systems experience substantial under-reporting for NHPs. The objective of this paper is to explore pharmacists' experiences with and responses to receiving or identifying reports of suspected ADRs associated with NHPs from pharmacy customers.


A qualitative study in which in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 community pharmacists in Toronto, Canada.

Key findings

Pharmacists generally did not submit reports of adverse events associated with NHPs to the national ADR reporting system and cited several barriers, including lack of time, complexity of the reporting process and lack of knowledge about NHPs. Pharmacists who accepted responsibility for adverse event reporting appeared to have different perceptions of their professional role: they saw themselves as ‘knowledge generators’, contributing to overall healthcare knowledge.


Reporting behaviour for suspected ADRs associated with NHPs may be explained by a pharmacist's perception of his/her professional role and perceptions of the relative importance of generating knowledge to share in the wider system of health care.

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