Community pharmacists' views on the regulation of complementary medicines and complementary-medicines practitioners: a qualitative study in New Zealand

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine community pharmacists' perspectives on CMs regulation in New Zealand, where proposals for CMs regulations had recently been suspended and where, currently, CMs are only weakly regulated.

Methods

Qualitative, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with New Zealand practising community pharmacists are identified through purposive and convenience sampling. Data were analysed using a general inductive approach.

Key findings

Participants held mixed views regarding harmonisation of CMs regulations across Australia and NZ; some supported an NZ national regulatory framework for CMs, based on the Australian system. Participants recognised the current CMs regulatory framework in NZ as inadequate, that regulation was required to some extent, and that mandatory regulation was not necessarily required. A key reason given in support of CMs regulations was the need for greater assurances around quality of CMs. Participants also supported a regulatory framework that incorporated assessment of the safety of CMs, but were less convinced of the need for, or feasibility of, requiring evidence of efficacy from clinical trials. Participants believed that regulation of CMs practitioners, such as herbalists, and CMs retailers was important, although there were mixed views as to whether regulation should be statutory or whether self-regulation would be adequate.

Conclusions

On the basis of these findings, pharmacists would be expected to welcome proposals for national regulations for CMs in NZ: such regulations should address concerns regarding product quality, inappropriate health claims and supporting evidence, and therefore should support pharmacists in meeting their obligations under the NZ Pharmacy Council's Code of Ethics.

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