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1.  Pharmacy study of natural health product adverse reactions (SONAR): a cross-sectional study using active surveillance in community pharmacies to detect adverse events associated with natural health products and assess causality 
BMJ Open  2014;4(3):e003431.
Objectives
To investigate the rates and causality of adverse event(s) (AE) associated with natural health product (NHP) use, prescription drug use and concurrent NHP-drug use through active surveillance in community pharmacies.
Design
Cross-sectional study of screened patients.
Setting
10 community pharmacies across Alberta and British Columbia, Canada from 14 January to 30 July 2011.
Participants
The participating pharmacy staff screened consecutive patients, or agents of patients, who were dropping or picking up prescription medications.
Primary outcome measures
Patients were screened to determine the proportions of them using prescription drugs and/or NHPs, as well as their respective AE rates. All AEs reported by the screened patients who took a NHP, consented to, and were available for, a detailed telephone interview (14%) were adjudicated fully to assess for causality.
Results
Over a total of 105 pharmacy weeks and 1118 patients screened, 410 patients reported taking prescription drugs only (36.7%; 95% CI 33.9% to 39.5%), 37 reported taking NHPs only (3.3%; 95% CI 2.4% to 4.5%) and 657 reported taking prescription drugs and NHPs concurrently (58.8%; 95% CI 55.9% to 61.6%). In total, 54 patients reported an AE, representing 1.2% (95% CI 0.51% to 2.9%), 2.7% (95% CI 0.4% to 16.9%) and 7.3% (95% CI 5.6% to 9.6%) of each population, respectively. Compared with patients who reported using prescription drugs, the patients who reported using prescription drugs and NHPs concurrently were 6.4 times more likely to experience an AE (OR; 95% CI 2.52 to 16.17; p<0.001). Combined with data from Ontario, Canada, a national proportion was calculated, which found that 45.4% (95% CI 43.8% to 47.0%) of Canadians who visit community pharmacies take NHPs and prescription drugs concurrently, and of those, 7.4% (95% CI 6.3% to 8.8%) report an AE.
Conclusions
A substantial proportion of community pharmacy patients use prescription drugs and NHPs concurrently; these patients are at a greater risk of experiencing an AE. Active surveillance provides a means of detecting such AEs and collecting high-quality data on which causality assessment can be based.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003431
PMCID: PMC3975764  PMID: 24682573
Complementary Medicine; Toxicology
3.  Investigation of Caucasian rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility loci in African patients with the same disease 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R239.
Introduction
The largest genetic risk to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) arises from a group of alleles of the HLA DRB1 locus ('shared epitope', SE). Over 30 non-HLA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) predisposing to disease have been identified in Caucasians, but they have never been investigated in West/Central Africa. We previously reported a lower prevalence of the SE in RA patients in Cameroon compared to European patients and aimed in the present study to investigate the contribution of Caucasian non-HLA RA SNPs to disease susceptibility in Black Africans.
Methods
RA cases and controls from Cameroon were genotyped for Caucasian RA susceptibility SNPs using Sequenom MassArray technology. Genotype data were also available for 5024 UK cases and 4281 UK controls and for 119 Yoruba individuals in Ibadan, Nigeria (YRI, HapMap). A Caucasian aggregate genetic-risk score (GRS) was calculated as the sum of the weighted risk-allele counts.
Results
After genotyping quality control procedures were performed, data on 28 Caucasian non-HLA susceptibility SNPs were available in 43 Cameroonian RA cases and 44 controls. The minor allele frequencies (MAF) were tightly correlated between Cameroonian controls and YRI individuals (correlation coefficient 93.8%, p = 1.7E-13), and they were pooled together. There was no correlation between MAF of UK and African controls; 13 markers differed by more than 20%. The MAF for markers at PTPN22, IL2RA, FCGR2A and IL2/IL21 was below 2% in Africans. The GRS showed a strong association with RA in the UK. However, the GRS did not predict RA in Africans (OR = 0.71, 95% CI 0.29 - 1.74, p = 0.456). Random sampling from the UK cohort showed that this difference in association is unlikely to be explained by small sample size or chance, but is statistically significant with p<0.001.
Conclusions
The MAFs of non-HLA Caucasian RA susceptibility SNPs are different between Caucasians and Africans, and several polymorphisms are barely detectable in West/Central Africa. The genetic risk of developing RA conferred by a set of 28 Caucasian susceptibility SNPs is significantly different between the UK and Africa with p<0.001. Taken together, these observations strengthen the hypothesis that the genetic architecture of RA susceptibility is different in different ethnic backgrounds.
doi:10.1186/ar4082
PMCID: PMC3674592  PMID: 23121884
4.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045196
PMCID: PMC3461007  PMID: 23028841
5.  Study protocol for a non-inferiority trial of cytisine versus nicotine replacement therapy in people motivated to stop smoking 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:880.
Background
Smokers need effective support to maximise the chances of successful quit attempts. Current smoking cessation medications, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion, nortriptyline or varenicline, have been shown to be effective in clinical trials but are underused by smokers attempting to quit due to adverse effects, contraindications, low acceptability and/or high cost. Cytisine is a low-cost, plant-based alkaloid that has been sold as a smoking cessation aid in Eastern Europe for 50 years. A systematic review of trial evidence suggests that cytisine has a positive impact on both short- and long-term abstinence rates compared to placebo. However, the quality of the evidence is poor and insufficient for licensing purposes in many Western countries. A large, well-conducted placebo-controlled trial (n = 740) of cytisine for smoking cessation has recently been published and confirms the findings of earlier studies, with 12-month continuous abstinence rates of 8.4% in the cytisine group compared to 2.4% in the placebo group (Relative risk = 3.4, 95% confidence intervals 1.7-7.1). No research has yet been undertaken to determine the effectiveness of cytisine relative to that of NRT.
Methods/design
A single-blind, randomised controlled, non-inferiority trial has been designed to determine whether cytisine is at least as effective as NRT in assisting smokers to remain abstinent for at least one month. Participants (n = 1,310) will be recruited through the national telephone-based Quitline service in New Zealand and randomised to receive a standard 25-day course of cytisine tablets (Tabex®) or usual care (eight weeks of NRT patch and/or gum or lozenge). Participants in both study arms will also receive a behavioural support programme comprising an average of three follow-up telephone calls delivered over an eight-week period by Quitline. The primary outcome is continuous abstinence from smoking at one month, defined as not smoking more than five cigarettes since quit date. Outcome data will also be collected at one week, two months and six months post-quit date.
Discussion
Cytisine appears to be effective compared with placebo, and given its (current) relative low cost may be an acceptable smoking cessation treatment for smokers, particularly those in low- and middle-income countries. Cytisine's 'natural' product status may also increase its acceptability and use among certain groups of smokers, such as indigenous people, smokers in countries where the use of natural medicines is widespread (e.g. China, India), and in those people who do not want to use NRT or anti-depressants to help them quit smoking. However it is important to ascertain the effectiveness of cytisine compared with that of existing cessation treatments.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12610000590066)
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-880
PMCID: PMC3234196  PMID: 22104038
6.  Adverse Event Reporting for Herbal Medicines: A Result of Market Forces 
Healthcare Policy  2009;4(4):77-90.
Herbal products are readily available over the counter in health food stores and are often perceived to be without risk. The current Canadian adverse event reporting system suffers from severe underreporting, resulting in a scarcity of safety data on herbal products. Twelve health food store personnel in the Greater Toronto Area were interviewed about their responses to herbal product–related adverse reactions. They generally fostered customer loyalty by offering generous return policies, which included collecting contact information to be sent to the manufacturers with the returned product. Thus, despite the public's lack of knowledge about the formal reporting system, adverse reaction information was directed to manufacturers whenever it resulted in a product return. The relationship between health food stores, industry and Health Canada provides a new opportunity to facilitate adverse event reporting. Additional information could be collected during the return process, and educational initiatives could be implemented to augment current post-market surveillance procedures for herbal products.
PMCID: PMC2700706  PMID: 20436811
7.  Consumers of natural health products: natural-born pharmacovigilantes? 
Background
Natural health products (NHPs), such as herbal medicines and vitamins, are widely available over-the-counter and are often purchased by consumers without advice from a healthcare provider. This study examined how consumers respond when they believe they have experienced NHP-related adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in order to determine how to improve current safety monitoring strategies.
Methods
Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve consumers who had experienced a self-identified NHP-related ADR. Key emergent themes were identified and coded using content analysis techniques.
Results
Consumers were generally not comfortable enough with their conventional health care providers to discuss their NHP-related ADRs. Consumers reported being more comfortable discussing NHP-related ADRs with personnel from health food stores, friends or family with whom they had developed trusted relationships. No one reported their suspected ADR to Health Canada and most did not know this was possible.
Conclusion
Consumers generally did not report their suspected NHP-related ADRs to healthcare providers or to Health Canada. Passive reporting systems for collecting information on NHP-related ADRs cannot be effective if consumers who experience NHP-related ADRs do not report their experiences. Healthcare providers, health food store personnel, manufacturers and other stakeholders also need to take responsibility for reporting ADRs in order to improve current pharmacovigilance of NHPs.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-8
PMCID: PMC2847952  PMID: 20184759

Results 1-7 (7)