Beliefs, practices and knowledge of community pharmacists regarding complementary and alternative medicine: National cross-sectional study in Lebanon
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Introduction: Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to provide patients with evidence-based information in order to ensure effective and safe use of Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) products. Objective: Assess beliefs, practices and knowledge related to CAM products among community pharmacists in Lebanon. Design, methods and setting: Using stratified random sampling, a nationally representative survey was conducted among community pharmacists in Lebanon. Through face-to-face interviews, pharmacists completed a multi component questionnaire consisting of four sections: (1) sociodemographic characteristics; (2) beliefs related to regulation of CAM products, role of media in promoting their safe use, availability of resources and continuing education; (3) practices including selling CAM products, providing advice for patients and reporting adverse effects and (4) knowledge about specific CAM products, their uses, side effects and interactions. Results: A total of 341 pharmacists agreed to participate (response rate: 86%). Only pharmacists with complete data were included in this study (n=310). Pharmacists agreed that CAM products are effective (63.8%) and that they should be exclusively sold in pharmacies (80.3%), but disagreed that commercially marketed CAM products are well regulated (63.5%) and that media plays a positive role in educating users about these products (55.8%). As for practices, 64.5% of pharmacists were always or often advising patients on safe use; however, 74.2% of participants rarely or never reported adverse effects. Regarding knowledge, although the majority of pharmacists were aware of the uses of CAM products, fewer knew about their side effects and their interactions with drugs. After adjustment for covariates, receiving education/training on CAM products during university was the sole predictor of higher knowledge score (ß=0.68, 95% CI 0.29 to 1.07). Conclusions This study revealed positive beliefs of pharmacists in Lebanon towards CAM products and indicated important gaps in their practice and knowledge. Deliberate efforts to enhance the education of pharmacists are warranted to ensure the safe integration and use of CAM products in Lebanon.