Pharmacies visited in the latest undercover investigation by Which? failed to give important safety warnings about OTC medicines, according to a report in Saturday’s Times.
Visits to Boots, Tesco, LloydsPharmacy, Morrisons and Asda, as well as some independent pharmacies, were all rated “poor” by an expert, says the report.
The investigation will appear in the March issue of the consumer magazine.
In one scenario, researchers went into pharmacies trying to buy Sudafed Sinus Pressure & Pain as well as ibuprofen tablets. In a third of visits they were not warned about the risks of combining the two products, which both contain ibuprofen.
Only half of the researchers were asked if they were taking any other medication and only a quarter quizzed on whether they had had the medication before.
In a second scenario, researchers tried to buy four 16-tablet packets of paracetamol at 42 pharmacies, supermarkets and discount stores. On 11 visits to stores including Boots and Lloyds, they were able to buy more than the recommended limit (32 tablets), although Asda, Morrisons and Tesco all successfully enforced the two-pack maximum sales limit.
The discount store Poundland was running a multibuy promotion, selling three 16-tablet packs of paracetamol for £1. This was “worrying”, said Which?.
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, commented: “This report serves as an important reminder to pharmacy professionals that one of the best ways to ensure the health and safety of patients, particularly in regard to over-the-counter medicines, is to ask questions through an open and helpful discussion.
“While the report highlights that improvements need to be made across some of the interactions, there are also welcome examples of pharmacy professionals working effectively to support the patients in their care.
“Given this variation, we would remind all pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals to make sure that they have all the necessary procedures and training in place for all staff to allow for effective patient care. We know that pharmacies are increasingly playing more of a role in managing the health of patients, and particularly in busy periods, adhering to these procedures will become ever more important.”
Ben Clissit, Which? magazine editor, said: “People will be alarmed that some pharmacists are missing out on asking their customers the basics, particularly in light of recent NHS advice to use pharmacies as the first point of call for minor illnesses.
“Our advice would be to read the patient information leaflet on any medication you take and be proactive when seeking out your pharmacist’s advice by asking key questions, especially if you are taking more than one medication.”
People will be alarmed