For some time it has been customary for pharmacists to advertise on prescription folders and of late, the tear-off strip of paper on the edge of a repeat form.
Mostly, this has taken the form of low key subject matter in keeping with the provision of a range of professional services, but now it seems that contentious forms have crept in viz. the advertising of weight loss systems and products.
One Victorian GP has taken exception to the association of this type of advertising with his prescription form and the Victorian Pharmacy Board has agreed with his complaint.
As pharmacy advertising has become more extreme, particularly with the rise of supermarket pharmacies, i2P put this issue out to Stephen Carbonara, one of our regular writers, for comment.
Because advertising is sensitive to the extent that it is supposed to accurately inform patients and general customers, and is seen collectively by all these people without discrimination, they can be forgiven for thinking the attitudes and values expressed by one pharmacy may be common to all.
While the TGA rules what is or is not legally correct, the profession of pharmacy needs an Advertising Code of Conduct to determine what is ethically and professionally correct.
The Victorian Pharmacy Board sees advertising on the side of a prescription form as being unprofessional, and in a different setting the NSW Pharmacy Board does not see the discounting of products such as Panamax as unprofessional because of lack of evidence of abuse of the product.
But what if Panamax was advertised on the edge of a prescription repeat at a discounted price?
Advertising is becoming a more contentious issue these days and it would seem that some form of self regulation is desirable - something that gives Pharmacy Boards an intervention level to protect the profession and the general public.
And when will state pharmacy boards speak with one voice?
What are you feelings on the matter?
Let us know through this email link and have your thoughts published as a letter to the editor.
The Pharmacy E-News item follows:
Ads on scripts condemned
- Pharmacy E-News 26/03/09
PROMOTIONAL advertising on repeat prescription forms and drug containers has been condemned by the Pharmacy Board of Victoria.
The Board issued a statement in relation to an advertisement for a weight loss program being printed on the tear-off strip of a repeat authorisation form after being alerted by a medical practitioner.
“The objection was that the prescription was being used, without the prescriber’s consent, as an advertising platform for goods and services,” the statement from the Board said.
“Such a practice could conceivably be extended to
arrangements between medical clinics and pharmacies to promote advertising by the clinic.”
The Board said including promotions for other drugs on clinical paraphernalia could be seen as unprofessional conduct.
“The Board agrees with the impropriety of this practice and requires any pharmacist using repeat authorisation forms in this manner to cease forthwith,” the statement said.
“Similarly, additional labels attached to containers of prescribed drugs that recommend the purchase of other substances is also unprofessional and may be construed as interfering with the medical treatment of a patient.”
Stephen Carbonara's comments follow:
Advertising at all costs is a recent pharmacy practice issue.
This is in relation to the Victorian Pharmacy Board decision to condemn advertising on prescription repeat tear-off slips.
First of all (in my opinion), who in their right mind would want to advertise on such a puny little insignificant bit of paper in the first place?
Seriously, this must be described as tacky at best.
Alright, pharmacy owners have the benefit of people entering their pharmacy due to the requirements of their health.
Surely their must be a myriad of other ways to get a customer to part with their money than repeat-form advertising,… if that’s what you intend to do!
Maybe I’m being too critical.
Maybe this legitimately seeks to inform a confused customer about products currently available. Although if it were up to me, I would ban ALL FORMS of advertising of medicinal products.
But what if HMR advertising was included on this tacky tear-off?
I answer: How about you have a pro-forma A4 letter and envelope at the ready to give to customers as a referral to their GP, requesting an HMR-referral!
I’m sorry, but step in the hall of mirrors and have a b***dy good hard look at yourselves and at least have the presence-of-mind to engage in a PROFESSIONAL method of information dissemination rather than a cheap, skinny advertising grab.
But what about other media for pharmacy advertising, eg. prescription folders? Is this not the same thing? What if weight loss products are being advertised?
Again, my opinion is that if it was flogging a medicinal product, it should be banned.
Prescription repeats, the shop window, advertorials, yellow pages ads etc… should only “advertise” available pharmacy services, not specific products. Services can generally benefit everyone, whereas products can only benefit a few.
By-the-way, here’s an idea for a weight loss program: “Eat Healthy & Exercise!!!”
And finally: Will this spread to other States?
Yes, it should & it should look at shameless pharmacy advertising in greater breadth.
…and: Do GP’s have the right to object?
Yes, but I’m embarrassed that we haven’t questioned ourselves FIRST, before the GPs noticed!
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