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Open Access Research article

Perceptions, use and attitudes of pharmacy customers on complementary medicines and pharmacy practice

Lesley A Braun12*, Evelin Tiralongo3, Jenny M Wilkinson4, Ondine Spitzer2, Michael Bailey6, Susan Poole5 and Michael Dooley5

Author Affiliations

1 Cardiothoracic Surgical Research Unit, Department of Surgery, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

2 Department of Pharmacy, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

3 Department of Pharmacy, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

4 School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia

5 Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Australia

6 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine School Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:38  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-38

Published: 20 July 2010



Complementary medicines (CMs) are popular amongst Australians and community pharmacy is a major supplier of these products. This study explores pharmacy customer use, attitudes and perceptions of complementary medicines, and their expectations of pharmacists as they relate to these products.


Pharmacy customers randomly selected from sixty large and small, metropolitan and rural pharmacies in three Australian states completed an anonymous, self administered questionnaire that had been pre-tested and validated.


1,121 customers participated (response rate 62%). 72% had used CMs within the previous 12 months, 61% used prescription medicines daily and 43% had used both concomitantly. Multivitamins, fish oils, vitamin C, glucosamine and probiotics were the five most popular CMs. 72% of people using CMs rated their products as 'very effective' or 'effective enough'. CMs were as frequently used by customers aged 60 years or older as younger customers (69% vs. 72%) although the pattern of use shifted with older age.

Most customers (92%) thought pharmacists should provide safety information about CMs, 90% thought they should routinely check for interactions, 87% thought they should recommend effective CMs, 78% thought CMs should be recorded in customer's medication profile and 58% thought pharmacies stocking CMs should also employ a complementary medicine practitioner. Of those using CMs, 93% thought it important for pharmacists to be knowledgeable about CMs and 48% felt their pharmacist provides useful information about CMs.


CMs are widely used by pharmacy customers of all ages who want pharmacists to be more involved in providing advice about these products.