health products such as herbs, vitamins and homeopathic medicines
are widely available in Canadian pharmacies.
Purpose: to conduct a systematic analysis of Canadian pharmacy
policies and guidelines to explore pharmacists’ professional responsibilities
with respect to natural health products.
Methods: Legislation, codes of ethics, standards of practice and
guidance documents that apply to the practice of pharmacy in each
Canadian jurisdiction were systematically collected and examined
to identify if, and how, these instruments establish professional
duties in regard to natural health products.
Results: The majority of Canadian jurisdictions now include some
explicit reference to natural health products in standards of
practice policy or guideline documents. Often natural health products
are simply assumed to be included in the over-the-counter (OTC)
product category and thus professional responsibilities for OTCs
are relevant for natural health products. A minority of provinces
have specific policies on natural health products, herbals or
homeopathy. In addition, the National Association of Pharmacy
Regulatory Authorities’ Model Standards of Practice specifically
refers to natural health products. Most policy documents indicate
that pharmacists should inquire about natural health product use
when counselling patients and, when asked, should provide accurate
information regarding the efficacy, toxicity, side effects or
interactions of natural health products. Public messaging also
indicates that pharmacists are knowledgeable professionals who
can provide evidence-based information about natural health products.
Conclusions: Explicit policies or guidelines regarding pharmacists’
professional responsibilities with respect to natural health products
currently exist in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions.