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1.  The Ethics of Dietary Supplements and Natural Health Products in Pharmacy Practice: A Systematic Documentary Analysis 
Aims and Objectives
Many natural health products (NHPs) and dietary supplements (DS) are purchased in pharmacies and it has been argued that pharmacists are in the best position to provide patients with evidence-based information about them. This study was designed to identify how the pharmacist’s role with respect to NHPs/DS is portrayed in the literature.
A systematic search was conducted in a variety of health databases to identify all literature that pertained to both pharmacy and NHPs/DS. Of the 786 articles identified, 665 were broad-coded and 259 were subjected to in-depth qualitative content analysis for emergent themes.
Key Findings
Overwhelmingly, support for the sale of NHPs/DS in pharmacies is strong. Additionally, a role for pharmacists in NHP/DS counselling is underscored. But another recurrent theme is that pharmacists are ill-equipped to counsel patients about these products that are available on their shelves. This situation has led some to question the ethics of pharmacists selling NHPs/DS and to highlight the existence of an ethical conflict stemming from the profit-motive associated with NHP/DS sales.
This analysis raises concerns about the ethics of NHPs/DS being sold in pharmacies, and about pharmacists being expected to counsel about products of which they have little knowledge.
PMCID: PMC2918535  PMID: 20218027 CAMSID: cams1317
2.  Study of Natural Health Product Adverse Reactions (SONAR): Active Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Concurrent Natural Health Product and Prescription Drug Use in Community Pharmacies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45196.
Many consumers use natural health products (NHPs) concurrently with prescription medications. As NHP-related harms are under-reported through passive surveillance, the safety of concurrent NHP-drug use remains unknown. To conduct active surveillance in participating community pharmacies to identify adverse events related to concurrent NHP-prescription drug use.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Participating pharmacists asked individuals collecting prescription medications about (i) concurrent NHP/drug use in the previous three months and (ii) experiences of adverse events. If an adverse event was identified and if the patient provided written consent, a research pharmacist conducted a guided telephone interview to gather additional information after obtaining additional verbal consent and documenting so within the interview form. Over a total of 112 pharmacy weeks, 2615 patients were screened, of which 1037 (39.7%; 95% CI: 37.8% to 41.5%) reported concurrent NHP and prescription medication use. A total of 77 patients reported a possible AE (2.94%; 95% CI: 2.4% to 3.7%), which represents 7.4% of those using NHPs and prescription medications concurrently (95%CI: 6.0% to 9.2%). Of 15 patients available for an interview, 4 (26.7%: 95% CI: 4.3% to 49.0%) reported an AE that was determined to be “probably” due to NHP use.
Active surveillance markedly improves identification and reporting of adverse events associated with concurrent NHP-drug use. Although not without challenges, active surveillance is feasible and can generate adverse event data of sufficient quality to allow for meaningful adjudication to assess potential harms.
PMCID: PMC3461007  PMID: 23028841
3.  Understanding the role of scientific evidence in consumer evaluation of natural health products for osteoarthritis an application of the means end chain approach 
Over 30% of individuals use natural health products (NHPs) for osteoarthritis-related pain. The Deficit Model for the Public Understanding of Science suggests that if individuals are given more information (especially about scientific evidence) they will make better health-related decisions. In contrast, the Contextual Model argues that scientific evidence is one of many factors that explain how consumers make health-related decisions. The primary objective was to investigate how the level of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of NHPs impacts consumer decision-making in the self-selection of NHPs by individuals with osteoarthritis.
The means-end chain approach to product evaluation was used to compare laddering interviews with two groups of community-dwelling Canadian seniors who had used NHPs to treat their osteoarthritis. Group 1 (n=13) had used only NHPs (glucosamine and/or chondroitin) with “high” scientific evidence of efficacy. Group 2 (n=12) had used NHPs (methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and/or bromelain) with little or no scientific evidence supporting efficacy. Content analysis and generation of hierarchical value maps facilitated the identification of similarities and differences between the two groups.
The dominant decision-making chains for participants in the two scientific evidence categories were similar. Scientific evidence was an important decision-making factor but not as important as the advice from health care providers, friends and family. Most participants learned about scientific evidence via indirect sources from health care providers and the media.
The Contextual Model of the public understanding of science helps to explain why our participants believed scientific evidence is not the most important factor in their decision to use NHPs to help manage their osteoarthritis.
PMCID: PMC3517436  PMID: 23107559
Natural health products; Decision-making; Means ends chain analysis; Osteoarthritis
4.  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
5.  Core Competencies in Natural Health Products for Canadian Pharmacy Students 
To reach consensus on core competency statements for natural health products (NHPs) for Canadian pharmacy students.
Four rounds of a modified Delphi method were used to achieve consensus on core competency statements for NHPs. Pharmacy educators from Canada and the United States, and representatives from Canadian pharmacy organizations ranked their agreement using a 5-point Likert scale.
Consensus was achieved on 3 NHP-related core competency statements: (1) to incorporate NHP knowledge when providing pharmaceutical care; (2) to access and critically appraise NHP-related information sources; and (3) to provide appropriate education to patients and other health care providers on the effectiveness, potential adverse effects, and drug interactions of NHPs.
Consensus was reached among leaders in NHP education on 3 NHP-related core competency statements. Implementation of these competencies would ensure that graduating Canadian pharmacists would be able to fulfill their professional responsibilities related to NHPs.
PMCID: PMC2865411  PMID: 20498738
natural health products (NHPs); competencies; Delphi method; complementary and alternative medicine; herbal medicine
6.  Toxic Element Contamination of Natural Health Products and Pharmaceutical Preparations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49676.
Concern has recently emerged regarding the safety of natural health products (NHPs)–therapies that are increasingly recommended by various health providers, including conventional physicians. Recognizing that most individuals in the Western world now consume vitamins and many take herbal agents, this study endeavored to determine levels of toxic element contamination within a range of NHPs.
Toxic element testing was performed on 121 NHPs (including Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, and various marine-source products) as well as 49 routinely prescribed pharmaceutical preparations. Testing was also performed on several batches of one prenatal supplement, with multiple samples tested within each batch. Results were compared to existing toxicant regulatory limits.
Toxic element contamination was found in many supplements and pharmaceuticals; levels exceeding established limits were only found in a small percentage of the NHPs tested and none of the drugs tested. Some NHPs demonstrated contamination levels above preferred daily endpoints for mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic or aluminum. NHPs manufactured in China generally had higher levels of mercury and aluminum.
Exposure to toxic elements is occurring regularly as a result of some contaminated NHPs. Best practices for quality control–developed and implemented by the NHP industry with government oversight–is recommended to guard the safety of unsuspecting consumers.
PMCID: PMC3504157  PMID: 23185404
7.  Use of natural health products in children 
Canadian Family Physician  2013;59(8):e372-e378.
To gain a more thorough understanding of why parents choose to give their children natural health products (NHPs), parents’ sources of information about NHPs, and the extent of disclosure and conversation with family doctors about the use of NHPs.
Qualitative study.
Newfoundland and Labrador.
Parents of children who were using NHPs (N = 20).
Individual, semistructured interviews were carried out with parents to obtain a better understanding of the reasoning behind the use of NHPs. Key themes emerging from the qualitative data were identified according to a number of criteria, including relevance to the research objectives, frequency with which a theme was mentioned, relative importance of the themes based on the amount of text taken up to address an issue, and emphasis (eg, emphatic or emotional speech).
Main findings
The types of NHPs used by parents participating in this study varied, except for the use of multivitamins. In addition, use of the products themselves was variable and inconsistent. Parents reported few concerns about the use of NHPs. The most commonly reported source of information about NHPs was family and friends. Most participants had not spoken to their family doctors about the use of NHPs.
Participants considered NHPs to be “natural” and seemed to equate this assessment with safety. This might explain why these parents sought advice and information from family and friends rather than from their family doctors and often failed to disclose the use of NHPs to their children’s family doctors.
PMCID: PMC3743714  PMID: 23946044
8.  Use of natural health products in children 
Canadian Family Physician  2013;59(8):e364-e371.
To determine how common it is for parents to give natural health products (NHPs) to their children, which NHPs are being used, why they are being used, and parents’ assessments of the benefits and side effects of NHPs.
Newfoundland and Labrador.
Parents waiting in their family doctors’ offices.
Main outcome measures
Parent and child demographic characteristics; pediatric chronic medical conditions affecting the children; prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, and NHPs used by the children; why the medications and NHPs were being used, the dose, and parents’ assessments of the effectiveness and side effects; and where parents had heard about the NHPs, whether they had told their physicians that the children were taking the products, and where they had obtained the products.
A total of 202 (53.4%) of the 378 eligible adults who were approached completed the survey. This represented 333 children. Mean (SD) age of the children was 5.1 (3.3) years. Overall, 28.7% of parents reported using nonvitamin NHPs for their children. A total of 137 children (41.1%) had taken NHPs (including vitamins); 61.1% of the NHPs being used were vitamins. The remainder fell under teas (primarily chamomile and green teas), echinacea, fish or omega-3 oils, and a large category of “other” products. These NHPs were most commonly used to improve general health, improve immunity, and prevent colds and infections. Approximately half of the parents (51.7%) believed their children had benefited from taking NHPs, and 4.4% believed their children had experienced adverse side effects. Slightly less than half of the parents (45.0%) had informed their physicians that their children were taking NHPs.
Overall, 45.5% of parents attending physicians’ offices reported using NHPs in their children. If vitamins are not included in the definition of NHPs, this rate drops to 28.7%. Parents most commonly use NHPs to maintain the general health of their children, to prevent colds, and to boost children’s immune systems. About half of the parents believed the NHPs helped, very few had noticed any side effects, and approximately half had informed their physicians that they were giving their children NHPs.
PMCID: PMC3743713  PMID: 23946043
9.  The Canadian Natural Health Products (NHP) regulations: industry perceptions and compliance factors 
The use of natural health products, such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs, by Canadians has been increasing with time. As a result of consumer concern about the quality of these products, the Canadian Department of Health created the Natural Health Products (NHP) Regulations. The new Canadian regulations raise questions about whether and how the NHP industry will be able to comply and what impact they will have on market structure. The objectives of this study were to explore who in the interview sample is complying with Canada's new NHP Regulations (i.e., submitted product licensing applications on time); and explore the factors that affect regulatory compliance.
Twenty key informant interviews were conducted with employees of the NHP industry. The structured interviews focused on the level of satisfaction with the Regulations and perceptions of compliance and non-compliance. Interviews were tape recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Data were independently coded, using qualitative content analysis. Team meetings were held after every three to four interviews to discuss emerging themes.
The major finding of this study is that most (17 out of 20) companies interviewed were beginning to comply with the new regulatory regime. The factors that contribute to likelihood of regulatory compliance were: perceptions and knowledge of the regulations and business size.
The Canadian case can be instructive for other countries seeking to implement regulatory standards for natural health products. An unintended consequence of the Canadian NHP regulations may be the exit of smaller firms, leading to industry consolidation.
PMCID: PMC1524757  PMID: 16734916
10.  The role of natural health products (NHPs) in dietetic practice: results from a survey of Canadian dietitians 
Registered dietitians (RDs) play a key role in disseminating information about nutrition and intervening in nutrition-related disorders in the Canadian context. Natural health products (NHPs) are increasingly associated with nutrition in patient and health professional discussions. For this study, NHPs were divided into three categories: nutritional supplements (NS); functional foods/nutraceuticals (FF/N); and herbal preparations (HP). The objective was to explore RDs’ perceptions about their professional roles and responsibilities with respect to three categories of natural health products (NHPs).
This research consisted of an on-line survey of registered dietitians (RDs) in Ontario.
Surveys were distributed electronically to all practicing RDs in Ontario by the College of Dietitians of Ontario. There were 558 survey respondents, a response rate of 20%.
The vast majority of RDs reported being consulted by clients about all product categories (98% for NS; 94% for FF/N; 91% for HP), with RDs receiving the most frequent questions about NS and the least frequent about HP. 74% of RDs believed that NS are included within the current scope of practice, compared to 59% for FF/N and 14% for HP. Even higher numbers believed that these products should be included: 97% for NS, 91% for FF/N and 47% for HP. RDs who report personally ingesting FF/N and HP were significantly more likely to report that these products should be in the dietetic scope of practice. In contrast, RDs who provide one-on-one counselling services or group-level counselling/workshops were significantly less likely to believe HP should be in the dietetic scope of practice.
Opinions of RDs indicated that NS and FF/N (and possibly HP) fall within, or should fall within, RDs’ scope of practice. Opportunity exists for RDs to undertake a professional role with respect to NHPs. Policy clarification regarding RD roles is needed.
PMCID: PMC3703453  PMID: 23819488
Dietitians; Professional roles and responsibilities; Natural health products; Dietary supplements; Nutritional supplements; Functional foods; Nutraceuticals; Herbal preparations
11.  Cost Effectiveness of Natural Health Products: A Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials 
Health care spending in North America is consuming an ever-increasing share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A large proportion of alternative health care is consumed in the form of natural health products (NHPs). The question of whether or not NHPs may provide a cost-effective choice in the treatment of disease is important for patients, physicians and policy makers. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature in order to find, appraise and summarize high-quality studies that explore the cost effectiveness of NHPs as compared to conventional medicine. The following databases were searched independently in duplicate from inception to January 1, 2006: EMBASE, MEDLINE, CINAHL, BioethicsLine, Wilson General Science abstracts, EconLit, Cochrane Library, ABI/Inform and SciSearch. To be included in the review, trials had to be randomized, assessed for some measure of cost effectiveness and include the use of NHPs as defined by the Natural Health Products Directorate. Studies dealing with diseases due to malnutrition were excluded from appraisal. The pooled searches unveiled nine articles that fit the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The conditions assessed by the studies included three on postoperative complications, two on cardiovascular disease, two on gastrointestinal disorders, one on critically ill patients and one on urinary tract infections. Heterogeneity between the studies was too great to allow for meta-analysis of the results. The use of NHPs shows evidence of cost effectiveness in relation to postoperative surgery but not with respect to the other conditions assessed. In conclusion, NHPs may be of use in preventing complications associated with surgery. The cost effectiveness of some NHPs is encouraging in certain areas but needs confirmation from further research.
PMCID: PMC2722206  PMID: 18955290
CAM; complementary and alternative medicine; cost effectiveness; natural health products; NHPs
12.  New Canadian natural health product regulations: a qualitative study of how CAM practitioners perceive they will be impacted 
New Canadian policy to regulate natural health products (NHPs), such as herbs and vitamins were implemented on January 1st, 2004. We explored complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners' perceptions of how the new regulations may affect their practices and relationships with patients/consumers.
This was an applied ethnographic study. Data were collected in fall 2004 via qualitative interviews with 37 Canadian leaders of four CAM groups that use natural products as a core part of their practises: naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), homeopathic medicine and Western herbalism. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded independently by a minimum of two investigators using content analysis.
Three key findings emerged from the data: 1) all CAM leaders were concerned with issues of their own access to NHPs; 2) all the CAM leaders, except for the homeopathic leaders, specifically indicated a desire to have a restricted schedule of NHPs; and 3) only naturopathic leaders were concerned the NHP regulations could potentially endanger patients if they self-medicate incorrectly.
Naturopaths, TCM practitioners, homeopaths, and Western herbalists were all concerned about how the new NHP regulations will affect their access to the products they need to practice effectively. Additional research will need to focus on what impacts actually occur as the regulations are implemented more fully.
PMCID: PMC1481533  PMID: 16686960
13.  The Prevalence of Natural Health Product Use in Patients with Acute Cardiovascular Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19623.
Natural health products (NHP) use may have implications with respect to adverse effects, drug interactions and adherence yet the prevalence of NHP use by patients with acute cardiovascular disease and the best method to ascertain this information is unknown.
To identify the best method to ascertain information on NHP, and the prevalence of use in a population with acute cardiovascular disease.
Structured interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of consecutive patients admitted with acute cardiovascular disease to the University of Alberta Hospital during January 2009. NHP use was explored using structured and open-ended questions based on Health Canada's definition of NHP. The medical record was reviewed, and documentation of NHP use by physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, compared against the gold-standard structured interview.
88 patients were interviewed (mean age 62 years, standard deviation [SD 14]; 80% male; 41% admitted for acute coronary syndromes). Common co-morbidities included hypertension (59%), diabetes (26%) and renal impairment (19%). NHP use was common (78% of patients) and 75% of NHP users reported daily use. The category of NHP most commonly used was vitamins and minerals (73%) followed by herbal products (20%), traditional medicines including Chinese medicines (9%), homeopathic preparations (1%) and other products including amino acids, essential fatty acids and probiotics (35%). In a multivariable model, only older age was associated with increased NHP use (OR 1.5 per age decile [95%CI 1.03 to 2.2]). When compared to the interview, the highest rate of NHP documentation was the pharmacist history (41%). NHP were documented in 22% of patients by the physician and 19% by the nurse.
NHP use is common in patients admitted with acute cardiovascular disease. However, health professionals do not commonly identify NHP as part of the medication profile despite its potential importance. Structured interview appears to be the best method to accurately identify patient use of NHP.
PMCID: PMC3090400  PMID: 21573067
14.  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
15.  Use of natural health products in children 
Canadian Family Physician  2013;59(8):e357-e363.
To determine the experiences of family physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador with parents’ use of natural health products (NHPs) for their children and to assess physicians’ attitudes toward use of NHPs in children.
A survey using the Dillman approach.
Newfoundland and Labrador.
All family physicians in the province.
Main outcome measures
Physician demographic characteristics; whether physicians inquire about the use of NHPs in children; the degree to which they think patients disclose use of NHPs in children; whether they counsel parents about the potential benefits or harms of NHPs; their own opinions about the usefulness of NHPs; whether they recommend NHPs in children and for what reasons; and the particular NHPs they have seen used in children and for what reasons.
A total of 159 (33.1%) family physicians responded; 65.4% were men, 71.7% were Canadian medical graduates, and 46.5% practised in rural areas. Overall, 18.8% of family physicians said they regularly or frequently asked about NHP use; 24.7% counseled patients about potential harms. Only 1.9% of physicians believed NHPs were usually beneficial, but a similarly small number (8.4%) thought they were usually harmful. Most respondents were somewhat neutral; 59.7% said they never recommend NHPs for children, and a further 37.0% said they would only “sometimes” recommend NHPs.
Most physicians believed that NHPs were probably of little benefit but not likely to be harmful. Most NHPs used were vitamins and minerals. Physicians recognized that NHPs were often used by parents for children, but in general they believed NHPs had little effect on their day-to-day medical practices. Thirty-eight (24.7%) of the 154 physicians had at least once recommended an NHP (including vitamins) for their pediatric patients. Physicians believed that parents did not often disclose use of NHPs for their children, but at the same time physicians generally did not actively inquire.
PMCID: PMC3743712  PMID: 23946042
16.  Science Across Borders: 5th Annual Natural Health Product Research Conference—March 26–29, 2008, Toronto, Canada 
Canada is experiencing a growing interest in the use of alternative therapies and products particularly natural health products (NHP). In 1997, Canadians spent around C$ 2 billion on NHP. In an attempt to catch with this popularity of NHP use, Canadian researchers and administrators from academia, industry and government jointly established the Natural Health Product Research Society of Canada (NHPRS). Since its formation, NHPRS has been organizing an annual meeting which brings together world renowned researchers and experts in the area of NHP research. For 2008, the annual NHPRS meeting took place in Toronto from the 26th to 29th of March with a focus on ‘Science Across Borders: Global Natural Health Products Research’. The scientific program was spread into three days of plenary lectures and oral presentations. The different sessions containing these talks were on: ethnobotany around the world; chemical analysis of NHP; product standards and quality control; ethnomedicine; novel analytical approaches; systemic research, nutrisciences and molecular medicine; and drug development from NHP. The meeting proved to be a great success in terms of the speakers that were invited and based on the data that was presented which highlighted recent research taking place in the field of NHP not only in Canada but from many parts of the world.
PMCID: PMC2887334  PMID: 18955362
meeting; natural health products; alternative therapies; ethnobotany; chemical analysis; quality control; drug development
17.  Natural Health Products, Modulation of Immune Function and Prevention of Chronic Diseases 
The immune system is increasingly found to be involved in the development of several chronic illnesses, for which allopathic medicine has provided limited tools for treatment and especially prevention. In that context, it appears worthwhile to target the immune system in order to modulate the risk of certain chronic illnesses. Meanwhile, natural health products (NHPs) are generating renewed interest, particularly in the prevention and treatment of several chronic diseases. Over 20 scientists from fields related to immune function and NHPs were thus convened to establish the state of knowledge on these subjects and to explore future research directions. This review summarizes the result of discussions held during the symposium. It thus seeks to be thought provoking rather than to comprehensively cover such broad areas of research. Notably, a brief overview of the immune system is presented, including potentially useful targets and strategies to keep it in an equilibrated state, in order to prevent certain disorders. The pertinence and limitations of targeting the immune system to prevent chronic diseases is also discussed. The paper then discusses the usefulness and limitations of current experimental tools available to study the immune modulating effects of NHPs. Finally, a concise review of some of the most studied NHPs showing promising immunomodulatory activity is given, and avenues for future research are described.
PMCID: PMC1297498  PMID: 16322809
NK cells; Cytokines; Microparticles; Probiotics; Natraprevention; Vitamins; n-3 fatty acids; Green tea; Echinacea; Ginseng
18.  Nutrient- and non-nutrient-based natural health product (NHP) use in adults with mood disorders: prevalence, characteristics and potential for exposure to adverse events 
To address knowledge gaps regarding natural health product (NHP) usage in mental health populations, we examined their use in adults with mood disorders, and explored the potential for adverse events.
Food and NHP intake was obtained from 97 adults with mood disorders. NHP data was used to compare prevalence with population norms (British Columbia Nutrition Survey; BCNS). Bivariate and regression analyses examined factors associated with NHP use. Assessment of potential adverse effects of NHP use was based on comparing nutrient intakes from food plus supplements with the Dietary Reference Intakes and by reviewing databases for reported adverse health effects.
Two-thirds (66%; 95% CI 56 to 75) were taking at least one NHP; 58% (95% CI 47 to 68) were taking NHPs in combination with psychiatric medications. The proportion of each type of NHP used was generally higher than the BCNS (range of p’s < 0.05 to 0.0001). When intakes from food and NHP sources were combined, a small proportion exceeded any Lowest-Observed-Adverse-Effect-Levels: only for niacin (n = 17) and magnesium (n = 6), two nutrients for which the potential for adverse effects is minimal. Conversely, about 38% (95% CI 28 to 49) of the sample were taking a non-nutrient based NHP for which previous adverse events had been documented.
The prevalent use of NHPs in this population suggests that health care providers need to be knowledgeable about their characteristics. The efficacy and safety of NHPs in relation to mental health warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3626531  PMID: 23570306
Natural health products; Adverse events; Mood disorders
19.  Cost evaluation of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients in Taiwan: A prospective, descriptive, observational study 
Background: Adverse drug reactions (AADRs) are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. In the United States, ADR-related morbidity and mortality costs have been estimated at US $330 billion to US $1130 billion annually.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the incidence of ADRs in Taiwan, to identify the drug classes that are most commonly related to ADRs, and to determine the direct medical costs to hospitals associated with prolonged hospitalizations due to ADRs.
Methods: In this prospective, descriptive, observational study, patients who experienced ADRs during their hospitalization at a Taiwan teaching hospital or who were admitted due to an ADR from January 1, 2002, through December 31, 2004, were included in the study. The patients were identified actively by clinical pharmacists and passively by physicians and nurses who reported ADRs. The World Health Organization (WWHO) definition of ADR severity was adopted, and degrees of probability for each ADR were determined using the Naranjo algorithm. The direct medical costs incurred to the hospital in the treatment of ADRs that prolonged hospitalization were calculated (ie, costs of emergency department [ED] visits, intensive care unit visits, extra days of hospitalization, monitoring and laboratory studies, pharmacist dispensing fees, physician fees, room charges, ED charges).
Results: During the study period, 43 of the 142,295 hospitalized patients (00.03%)) were admitted because of an ADR. A total of 564 (00.40%)) of the hospitalized patients were verified to have ADRs. Three hundred eighteen of the patients (56.44%) with ADRs were male and the overall mean (SD) age was 66(2) years. The most common drug classes associated with the ADRs were antibiotics (219 patients [38.8% ]), analgesics (62 [11.0%]), and cardiovascular agents (56 [9.9%]). The systems most commonly involved in ADRs were cutaneous (296 patients [52.5%]), hematologic (61 [10.8%]), and cardiovascular (54 [9.66%]). The causes of the ADRs were anaphylactic (464 patients [82.3%]), drug overdose (78 [13.8%]), and drug-drug interactions (22 [3.9%]). Of the ADRs, 474 (884.0%) were idiosyncratic type B reactions (predictable). ADR-related costs, estimated at US $3489/ADR, were mostly due to prolonged length of stay. Based on the WHO definition, of the 564 ADRs, 330 (58.5%) and 40 (7.1%) were classified as moderate and severe, respectively. Two patients died of ADRs associated with allopurinol.
Conclusion: In this hospital, 0.40% of patients were identified as having ADRs that were associated with high direct costs, mostly due to extended hospitalizations.
PMCID: PMC3969903
direct medical cost; adverse drug reactions
20.  Interactions of natural health products with biomedical cancer treatments 
Current Oncology  2008;15(Suppl 2):s109.es81-s110.es86.
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (cam), including the ingestion of natural health products (nhps), is common among cancer patients. Of concern to clinicians and patients alike is the possibility that cam, used concurrently with biomedical therapy, may interact poorly with that therapy, especially chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Proponents of nhps argue that taking such products can help to reduce the side effects of conventional therapy and can provide an additional anticancer effect. However, opponents insist that the potential for harm is too great to warrant the risk of concurrent administration. There are promising examples of specific nhps that may provide patient benefit even when given in close proximity both to chemotherapy and to radiotherapy, but unfortunately, in part because of a rather limited evidence base, caution is warranted when considering the issue of therapeutic interactions. Strategic application of nhps before or after conventional therapy may be considered; however, concurrent application should be avoided as a general principle until further evidence is available regarding specific interactions.
PMCID: PMC2528552  PMID: 18769615
Complementary medicine; cam; natural health products; nhps; chemotherapy; radiotherapy; antioxidants; drug–herb interactions; pharmacology
21.  Molecular targets of natural health products in arthritis 
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) consume 'natural health products' (NHPs) whose therapeutic efficacy, toxicity and mechanisms of action are poorly understood. In a previous issue of Arthritis Research and Therapy, Haqqi and colleagues characterized IL-1-activated mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 3 (MKK3) and p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) isoforms in human OA chondrocytes. The cartilageprotective mechanisms of pomegranate extract involve diminishing MKK3-activated p38α, JNK, NF-κB and Runx2 pathways, which regulate inflammatory proteins and cartilage-destroying proteases. Epigallocatechin- 3-gallate, resveratrol, curcumin and other NHP active ingredients suppress multiple inflammatory and catabolic molecular mediators of arthritis. Non-toxicity, reduced severity and incidence of arthritis in animal models warrant testing NHP active ingredients for preventing human OA and RA.
PMCID: PMC3157637  PMID: 21345249
22.  Medication use in the context of everyday living as understood by seniors 
Recognizing that older adults are among the biggest consumers of medication, and the demographic group most likely to suffer an adverse drug reaction (ADR), this paper details the findings from a recent study on how older adults come to understand medication and its related use. Using a qualitative content analysis method, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 individuals from British Columbia, Canada. Study participants ranged in age from 65 to 89 years (male=9, female=11). Using NVIVO® 7 software, data were subjected to comparative thematic content analysis in an effort to capture the role of medication use in the context of everyday living as understood by older adults. While there was variability in how older adults come to understand their medication use, an overarching theme was revealed whereby most participants identified their prescription medications as being life-sustaining and prolonging. Deeper thematic content analysis of participant narratives drew attention to three key areas: (A) medications are viewed as a necessary, often unquestioned, aspect of day-to-day life (B) a relationship is perceived to exist between the amount of medications taken and ones current state of health (C) the overall medication experience is positively or negatively influenced by the doctor patient relationship and the assumption that it is the physicians role to communicate medication information that will support everyday living. The article concludes that medical authority and the complexities surrounding medication use need to undergo significant revision if community dwelling older adults are to experience greater success in safely managing their health and medication-related needs.
PMCID: PMC3351096  PMID: 22586433
Medications; older adults; community dwelling; chronic illness
23.  A systematic review of natural health product treatment for vitiligo 
BMC Dermatology  2008;8:2.
Vitiligo is a hypopigmentation disorder affecting 1 to 4% of the world population. Fifty percent of cases appear before the age of 20 years old, and the disfigurement results in psychiatric morbidity in 16 to 35% of those affected.
Our objective was to complete a comprehensive, systematic review of the published scientific literature to identify natural health products (NHP) such as vitamins, herbs and other supplements that may have efficacy in the treatment of vitiligo. We searched eight databases including MEDLINE and EMBASE for vitiligo, leucoderma, and various NHP terms. Prospective controlled clinical human trials were identified and assessed for quality.
Fifteen clinical trials were identified, and organized into four categories based on the NHP used for treatment. 1) L-phenylalanine monotherapy was assessed in one trial, and as an adjuvant to phototherapy in three trials. All reported beneficial effects. 2) Three clinical trials utilized different traditional Chinese medicine products. Although each traditional Chinese medicine trial reported benefit in the active groups, the quality of the trials was poor. 3) Six trials investigated the use of plants in the treatment of vitiligo, four using plants as photosensitizing agents. The studies provide weak evidence that photosensitizing plants can be effective in conjunction with phototherapy, and moderate evidence that Ginkgo biloba monotherapy can be useful for vitiligo. 4) Two clinical trials investigated the use of vitamins in the therapy of vitiligo. One tested oral cobalamin with folic acid, and found no significant improvement over control. Another trial combined vitamin E with phototherapy and reported significantly better repigmentation over phototherapy only. It was not possible to pool the data from any studies for meta-analytic purposes due to the wide difference in outcome measures and poor quality ofreporting.
Reports investigating the efficacy of NHPs for vitiligo exist, but are of poor methodological quality and contain significant reporting flaws. L-phenylalanine used with phototherapy, and oral Ginkgo biloba as monotherapy show promise and warrant further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2432048  PMID: 18498646
24.  Do Trajectories of At-Home Dementia Caregiving Account for Burden After Nursing Home Placement? A Growth Curve Analysis 
Social work in health care  2010;49(8):734-752.
Transitioning to the nursing home setting is a complex process for family caregivers of older adults with dementia. While nursing home placement (NHP) can alleviate certain caregiving responsibilities, new stressors can also emerge. In the present study, the researchers examined how care-related factors can change leading up to NHP and how these factors influence caregiver outcomes following NHP. A sample of 634 family dementia caregivers (N = 634) were surveyed at three six-month intervals prior to NHP and once during the 12 month period following institutionalization. Growth curve modeling revealed dynamic changes in certain factors leading up to NHP (e.g., caregivers’ perceived health), while other factors remained stable (e.g., caregiver burden). Several factors emerged as significant predictors of caregiver burden following NHP, including pre-placement burden and adult day service utilization. For geriatric social workers, these findings may be useful in assessing family caregivers, and in the development and utilization of appropriate interventions.
PMCID: PMC2943863  PMID: 20853212
caregiver burden; nursing home placement; dementia; trajectories
25.  The National Heatwave Plan – A Brief Evaluation of Issues for Frontline Health Staff 
PLoS Currents  2014;6:ecurrents.dis.aa63b5ff4cdaf47f1dc6bf44921afe93.
Background: The adverse effects of heatwaves on mortality are well recognised. Heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and severe in coming decades. England’s National Heatwave Plan (NHP) aims to prepare the country for periods of extreme heat and thereby limit adverse health effects. The central aim of this study is to understand how effectively the NHP is disseminated within an acute hospital and to identify any barriers to its use. Methods: Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews and focus groups with key hospital managers, nurses and healthcare assistants. All participants were recruited from a single hospital in the South East of England. Data were analysed using Framework Analysis. Results: We conducted two focus groups with frontline clinical staff and five interviews with senior managers, all of whom deemed the NHP a low priority. Hospital managers showed good awareness of the plan, which was lacking amongst frontline staff. Nevertheless front line staff were familiar with the dangers of excess heat and felt that they individualised care accordingly. Communication of information between managers and frontline staff was highlighted as a problem during heatwaves. Additionally, issues with inadequate building stock and equipment limited effective implementation of the plan. Participants were able to suggest novel improvements to the plan. Conclusions: Increased awareness and improved communication could help better integrate the NHP into the clinical practice of English hospital-based healthcare professionals. Further evaluation of the NHP in acute care trusts and other health care settings is warranted to expand upon these initial findings.
PMCID: PMC3893353  PMID: 24475366

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