Objective: The use and sales of herbal medications have increased dramatically over the past several years. Pharmacists are in an ideal position to educate patients about herbal medicines. This study was intended to determine the knowledge and attitudes of pharmacists regarding herbal medications.
Methods: A survey was distributed to pharmacists at several state and regional meetings in Virginia and North Carolina between August and October 1998. The survey evaluated demographic data, attitudinal scales, and a 15-item herbal medicine knowledge test. Pharmacists immediately returned the surveys to the distributor on completion.
Results: Of the 217 surveys distributed, 164 met the inclusion criteria for further evaluation. Of the pharmacists surveyed, 68.0% practiced in a community pharmacy, 45.1% had previous continuing education on herbal medications, and 73.6% sold herbal medications in their practice settings. The average score on the herbal knowledge test was 6.3 (maximum score of 15). Pharmacists with previous continuing education scored significantly higher than those without prior continuing education (p < 0.001). Of the 15 questions, the five that pharmacists were most likely to answer correctly assessed the uses of herbal medications. Additionally, pharmacists with prior continuing education or with access to herbal medication information at their practice site were more likely to agree that providing information about herbal medication is a pharmacist's professional responsibility (p = 0.02 and p = 0.01, respectively).
Conclusions: The findings from this study demonstrate that pharmacists were more likely to answer correctly about the uses of herbal medications than about drug interactions, adverse drug effects, and precautions of herbal medications. Additionally, pharmacists with previous continuing education on herbal medications were more knowledgeable about these products. With the increasing use of herbal medications, there is a greater need for pharmacy training programs in this area.