Ethics in Pharmacy

Pharmacists are an essential part of the healthcare multidisciplinary team. They help to ensure that medicines are used in the safest and most effective manner.

However, the profession, particularly community pharmacy, sits at the intersection between health and retail, as the profits are gained from making sales of medications. This introduces a number of ethical complications and a strong need for guidelines to base decisions on that are centered on moral obligations and virtues.

Blur image of pharmacist taking medicine from shelf in the pharmacy - Image Copyright: Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock
Image Copyright: Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock

Ethical Principles

The code of conduct to guide decision-making for pharmacist and maintain ethical integrity varies according to the country and professional body that creates the guidelines. However, the ethical principles are similar and can be separated into five main categories: the responsibility for the consumer, the community, the profession, the business and the wider healthcare team.

The ethical responsibilities of a pharmacist that relate to the consumer include:

  • To recognize the consumer’s health and wellbeing as their first priority, and utilize knowledge and provide compassionate care in an appropriate and professional manner.
  • To respect the consumer’s autonomy and rights and assist them in making informed decisions about their health. This should include respecting the dignity, privacy, confidentiality, individuality and choice of the consumer.

The ethical responsibilities of a pharmacist that relate to the community include:

  • To maintain the reputation and trust that the public has placed on the profession and refrain from abusing this trust and respect.
  • To acknowledge their place in the wider community, including their professional role and responsibilities to control and supply pharmaceutical goods for optimal health outcomes.

The ethical responsibilities of a pharmacist that relate to the profession include:

  • To commit to the development and enhancement of the profession by becoming involved in activities such as training staff, teaching, being a preceptor or mentor for students, interns or colleagues, participating in initiatives to develop the profession and demonstrate positive leadership.
  • To keep up-to-date with knowledge of pharmacy practice with lifelong learning and self-development to maintain professional competence and personal health to continue practicing.
  • To practice only when their professional independence, judgment and integrity remains upheld, and manage situations with a conflict of interest appropriately.

The ethical responsibilities of a pharmacist that relate to business practices include:

  • To conduct the business practices of pharmacy in an ethical and professional manner with the consumer’s best interest in mind and due respect to colleagues and the reputation of the profession.

The ethical responsibilities of a pharmacist that relate to other health professionals include:

  • To work in cooperation and collaboration with other healthcare professionals to achieve the optimal health outcomes for consumers.

Ethics in Pharmacy Practice

It is important that pharmacists always uphold their professional integrity and endeavor to provide the best service to their patients. This includes staying up-to-date with new knowledge that could affect their decision and using the trust held by the pharmacy profession for positive outcomes to promote the health of the general public whenever possible.

The ethical guidelines should underpin every action that a pharmacist takes throughout their workday, in such a way that ethical decision-making becomes a second nature to the pharmacist and optimal decisions are made on a consistent basis.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 2, 2023

Yolanda Smith

Written by

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.


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