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1.  Supportive but “worried”: perceptions of naturopaths, homeopaths and Chinese medicine practitioners through a regulatory transition in Ontario, Canada 
In line with recent World Health Organization recommendations, many jurisdictions are taking steps to regulate practitioners of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM). Previous studies have examined TCAM practitioners’ generally-supportive views about professional regulation; however, little research has been conducted on TCAM practitioners’ experiences and perspectives amidst an active regulatory process. In 2006 and 2007, the province of Ontario, Canada announced it would grant self-regulatory status to three TCAM practitioner groups - homeopaths, naturopaths and Chinese medicine practitioners/acupuncturists.
In 2011 and 2012, part-way through each group’s regulatory process, we surveyed all practitioners from these three groups (n = 1047) that could be identified from public registries and professional associations. The data presented here are derived from the sub-sample of homeopaths (n = 234), naturopaths (n = 273) and Chinese medicine practitioners/acupuncturists (n = 181) who provided answers to an open-ended question about their opinions of the regulatory process at the end of the survey. An inductive, thematic analysis of qualitative survey responses was conducted.
Survey responses affirmed a pro-regulatory stance across all groups, but revealed considerable ‘worry’ amongst practitioners as to how the regulations might be implemented. Four primary ‘worry-related’ themes emerged: a) regulation’s potential administrative and financial burden on practitioners; b) scope-related concerns; c) implementation of fair registration standards; and d) whether regulation might erode the groups’ distinctive worldviews. Some occupationally-specific concerns appeared related to each group’s particular stage of professionalization. Other ‘worries’ may be related to the relative marginality of TCAM practitioner groups within biomedically-dominant national health care systems, and the possibility that inter-professional hierarchies may be emerging between particular TCAM groups. Specific concerns around overlapping practice scopes between TCAM and other professions raised questions about the implementation of non-monopolistic regulatory models such as Ontario’s.
Overall, this study will help inform regulators and TCAM practitioner groups to navigate the unique challenge of regulating health care providers long excluded from national health care systems, who frequently work from within paradigms distinct from mainstream biomedicine.
PMCID: PMC4561449  PMID: 26347222
Traditional complementary and alternative medicine regulation health practitioner professions
2.  Roles and Responsibilities of Pharmacists with Respect to Natural Health Products: Key Informant Interviews 
Although many pharmacies sell natural health products (NHPs), there is no clear definition as to the roles and responsibilities (if any) of pharmacists with respect to these products.
The purpose of this study was to explore pharmacy and stakeholder leaders’ perceptions of pharmacists’ professional NHP roles and responsibilities.
Semi-structured key informant interviews were conducted with pharmacy leaders (n= 17) and stakeholder (n=18) leaders representing consumers, complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, conventional healthcare practitioners, and industry across Canada.
Overwhelmingly all participants believed a main NHP responsibility for pharmacists was safety monitoring. One challenge identified in the interviews was pharmacists’ general lack of NHP knowledge. Stakeholder leaders did not expect pharmacists to be experts on NHPs, rather that pharmacists should have a basic level of knowledge about NHPs. Many pharmacy leaders appeared to be unfamiliar with current pharmacy policies and guidelines concerning NHPs.
Participants described pharmacists’ professional roles and responsibilities for NHPs as similar to those for over-the-counter drugs. More awareness of existing NHP-related pharmacy policies is needed. Pharmacy owners/managers should provide additional training to ensure front-line pharmacists have appropriate knowledge of NHPs sold in the pharmacy.
PMCID: PMC2923149  PMID: 20188329 CAMSID: cams1316
natural health products; pharmacists; professional roles and responsibilities
3.  Adverse Event Reporting for Herbal Medicines: A Result of Market Forces 
Healthcare Policy  2009;4(4):77-90.
Herbal products are readily available over the counter in health food stores and are often perceived to be without risk. The current Canadian adverse event reporting system suffers from severe underreporting, resulting in a scarcity of safety data on herbal products. Twelve health food store personnel in the Greater Toronto Area were interviewed about their responses to herbal product–related adverse reactions. They generally fostered customer loyalty by offering generous return policies, which included collecting contact information to be sent to the manufacturers with the returned product. Thus, despite the public's lack of knowledge about the formal reporting system, adverse reaction information was directed to manufacturers whenever it resulted in a product return. The relationship between health food stores, industry and Health Canada provides a new opportunity to facilitate adverse event reporting. Additional information could be collected during the return process, and educational initiatives could be implemented to augment current post-market surveillance procedures for herbal products.
PMCID: PMC2700706  PMID: 20436811
4.  Consumers of natural health products: natural-born pharmacovigilantes? 
Natural health products (NHPs), such as herbal medicines and vitamins, are widely available over-the-counter and are often purchased by consumers without advice from a healthcare provider. This study examined how consumers respond when they believe they have experienced NHP-related adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in order to determine how to improve current safety monitoring strategies.
Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve consumers who had experienced a self-identified NHP-related ADR. Key emergent themes were identified and coded using content analysis techniques.
Consumers were generally not comfortable enough with their conventional health care providers to discuss their NHP-related ADRs. Consumers reported being more comfortable discussing NHP-related ADRs with personnel from health food stores, friends or family with whom they had developed trusted relationships. No one reported their suspected ADR to Health Canada and most did not know this was possible.
Consumers generally did not report their suspected NHP-related ADRs to healthcare providers or to Health Canada. Passive reporting systems for collecting information on NHP-related ADRs cannot be effective if consumers who experience NHP-related ADRs do not report their experiences. Healthcare providers, health food store personnel, manufacturers and other stakeholders also need to take responsibility for reporting ADRs in order to improve current pharmacovigilance of NHPs.
PMCID: PMC2847952  PMID: 20184759
5.  Exploring consumer and pharmacist views on the professional role of the pharmacist with respect to natural health products: a study of focus groups 
Natural health products (NHPs) such as herbs, vitamins and homeopathic medicines, are currently available for sale in most Canadian pharmacies. However, most pharmacists report that they have limited knowledge about these products which have been regulated in Canada as a specific sub-category of drugs. In this paper, consumers' and practicing pharmacists' perceptions of pharmacists' professional responsibilities with respect to NHPs are examined.
A total of 16 focus groups were conducted with consumers (n = 50) and pharmacists (n = 47) from four different cities across Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Halifax).
In this paper, we illustrate the ways in which pharmacists' professional responsibilities are impacted by changing consumer needs. Many consumers in the study utilized a wide range of information resources that may or may not have included pharmacists. Nevertheless, the majority of consumers and pharmacists agreed that pharmacists should be knowledgeable about NHPs and felt that pharmacists should be able to manage drug-NHPs interactions as well as identify and evaluate the variety of information available to help consumers make informed decisions.
This paper demonstrates that consumers' expectations and behaviour significantly impact pharmacists' perceptions of their professional responsibilities with respect to NHPs.
PMCID: PMC2483265  PMID: 18625059

Results 1-5 (5)