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Inappropriate piece about increasing OTC sales

I am concerned about one of your recent articles, particularly the headline ‘How pharmacists can boost sales of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines’ (Pharmaceutical Journal online, 9 January 2016).

I appreciate that community pharmacies need revenue from sales of OTC medicines to help them remain viable, but the headline and focus of this article are ill-judged and does not align with our code of ethics.

The piece contained little consideration of how community pharmacists can use their knowledge and skills to ensure that OTC medicines are used safely and effectively for their patients and service users (not ‘customers’, which the article refers to them as). This is concerning given that some OTC medicines are liable to abuse (which community pharmacists can prevent) and inappropriate use of OTC medicines can harm patients.

Polypharmacy and deprescribing are hot topics, and overuse of OTC medicines further compounds the polypharmacy problem we are facing. Also, while using the example of the allergy season to help pharmacies adapt their range of products across the four seasons offered some sensible advice, it also implies that, during winter, pharmacies should increase their stocks and promote sales of cough and cold remedies — products that have little clinical evidence to support their use.

For many years, pharmacists have worked hard to remove the perceptions that some of the more cynical healthcare professionals have of us as merely being ‘shopkeepers’ and ‘pill counters’. This article has the potential to undo some of that work. Maybe a more appropriate (and professionally responsible) headline would have been ‘How to increase the number of patients that visit your pharmacy’, which could have advised community pharmacists how to promote the services and expert advice that they can offer their patients and service users.

Gareth Nickless

Lead clinical liaison tutor

Liverpool John Moores University

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202193

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