A survey of pharmacists shows that few believe in the organic herbal products sold in their stores.
The real estate in pharmacies are the racks next to the dispensary where clients wait while their prescriptions are being filled. Here is where clients kill time looking at items that they might not have planned to buy. But chances are, as marketing experts know well, they will pick something up during their minutes waiting and a dig a bit further in their pockets to pay for it.
In many pharmacies those racks in front of the dispensary are not supplied with over-the-counter non-prescription medication such as aspirin and acetaminophen but with natural health products, including a range of organic pills and potions. In the past several years, drug stores silently have become the biggest submission route for organic herbs in Canada and the United States, far exceeding the share of health food stores, the traditional source for consumers.
Despite racking up $5 billion in annual revenue for organic health products in the U.S., most pharmacists do not believe in the organic herbal items they are selling, according to market research of 533 licensed pharmacists in Minnesota interviewed, only 19% said that they believe organic health products are effective. What’s more surprisingly is, 44% of pharmacists felt that their knowledge of organic herbs and other organic health products is inadequate. If this is representative of North America, then millions of customers are getting their organic herbal products from someone who does not know enough about herbs or does not believe that herbs work.
Why then do pharmacies sell herbal products if they do not believe in them?
Probably because they earn more money with the herbal products on the racks instead of medication. The revenue from herbal products have grown to more than 10% of prescription medication. According to recent Canadian industry reports, drugstore owners and managers said that herbal remedies were one of the top three areas that they wanted to expand in their stores.
But were they also thinking of hiring someone with herbal expertise? Ninety-five percent said no. It seems that consumers do not need or want help with herbs, or they do not expect their pharmacist to be able to answer their questions. According to the Minnesota survey, pharmacists are asked for help on herbal products on average only once a day.
Are consumers getting the information they need to use herbs safely and effectively when they purchase them at their local pharmacy? We wonder.