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Aussies self-prescribing vitamins and supplements risk their health

21 February, 2017

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is concerned about the large number of Australians risking their health by self-prescribing vitamins and supplements.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said some over-the-counter products, such as vitamins and supplements, can have serious side effects, so GP consultation is necessary before people commence taking them.

"People need to take into consideration the potential risks involved and the likely benefits of self-prescribing vitamins and supplements," Dr Seidel said.

"Vitamins and supplements can interfere with other medicines. Taking them may also lead to patients delaying or dismissing consultations with their GP."

Dr Seidel said the RACGP encourages people to establish and maintain a healthy diet rather than use supplements.

"We urge people to ingest their vitamins through their diet," Dr Seidel said.

"This is a far safer and healthier option than relying on supplements."

Dr Seidel said he believes that the current retail business model of pharmacies, which allows products like vitamins and supplements to be sold to Australians, is inappropriate within the healthcare environment and needs to be examined.

"Non-evidence-based vitamins and supplements must not be sold as complementary or alternatives to evidence-based medicines prescribed by a GP."

Dr Seidel said it is imperative that the sale of retail products within the pharmacy setting does not devalue the way patients view evidence-based medicines.

"It is vital that pressure to achieve sales does not precede a commitment to provide safe and quality pharmacy services."

Dr Seidel said that if people are concerned about their health, their GP should always be the first point of call, not the vitamins and supplements aisle at their local pharmacy.

"If you feel your nutritional intake is insufficient, you should seek advice from your GP about modifying your diet rather than taking supplements," Dr Seidel said.

"Your GP will be able to assess your health and provide the kind of individual advice that cannot be found on the back of a bottle of vitamins."

"The RACGP also recommends people follow the Australian dietary guidelines if they would like to learn more about identifying the most nutritious food options."

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