Pharmacy Guild distances itself from college over tobacco training dollars

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The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has effectively repudiated the Australasian College of Pharmacy over its acceptance of financial support from a tobacco company.

The college is one of the leading providers of pharmacy professional development programs.

It describes itself as, "Operating with the highest level of professional integrity, making sound judgements and creating value for our members and supporters."

Dr Brett MacFarlane is the college's chief pharmacist and is responsible for its continuing professional development and accreditation functions.

Dr MacFarlane, who is very highly regarded across the sector, recently authored an article on nicotine e-cigarettes. The article, which was distributed via email by the Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP), was "supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Philip Morris International."

BioPharmaDispatch understands the email was distributed under an existing relationship between AJP and the college and that the publication was not directly remunerated.

The company, which is arguably best-known for its Marlboro brand of cigarettes, is also one of the world's leading providers of nicotine e-cigarettes.

The TGA recently scheduled nicotine e-cigarettes to make them available in Australia via community pharmacy with a prescription. They are an unapproved product. They do not appear on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and the Department of Health's website says they are not considered safe, that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim they are effective as a device for smoking cessation, and they may even be a pathway to tobacco smoking.

Both the Pharmacy Guild and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia recently confirmed their opposition to the involvement of tobacco companies in professional development programs.

The college's decision to accept financial support from Philip Morris is particularly challenging for the Pharmacy Guild. The Guild's Queensland branch has close links with the college and actually shares its address.

In response to questions from BioPharmaDispatch, specifically on whether it backed the college's decision, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia restated its opposition to any tobacco company being involved in the training of pharmacists.

"Pharmacists are committed to the health and wellbeing of their communities and the involvement of tobacco companies in their training is contrary to these principles," it said, suggesting any further questions be directed to the college.

Last Thursday (7 October), BioPharmaDispatch submitted questions to the college about its acceptance of financial support from Philip Morris International. No response had been received at the time of publication.

In a statement, the Australian Journal of Pharmacy said, "The email was distributed by the AJP as a commercial arrangement with the Australasian College of Pharmacy and on the basis that the content of the article was supplied by the College and written by its chief pharmacist Dr Brett MacFarlane, who is a highly respected researcher and pharmacist educator.

"Indeed, the content clearly and succinctly summarises the changes to the prescribing and supply of nicotine vaping products following their rescheduling to Schedule 4 from 1 October 2021. This is essential information for all pharmacists.

"However, we recognise that any commercial arrangement - either directly or indirectly - with the tobacco industry is wholly inconsistent with the AJP’s position as Australian pharmacy’s oldest and most respected journal of record and its aims to advance and support the profession of pharmacy."