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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.
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.
Cross-sectional study of screened patients.
10 community pharmacies across Alberta and British Columbia, Canada from 14 January to 30 July 2011.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3975764  PMID: 24682573
Complementary Medicine; Toxicology
2.  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
4.  Exploring the Nature of Therapeutic Massage Bodywork Practice 
Research on therapeutic massage bodywork (TMB) continues to expand, but few studies consider how research or knowledge translation may be affected by the lack of uniformly standardized competencies for most TMB therapies, by practitioner variability from training in different forms of TMB, or from the effects of experience on practice.
This study explores and describes how TMB practitioners practice, for the purpose of improving TMB training, practice, and research.
Participants & Setting
19 TMB practitioners trained in multiple TMB therapies, in Alberta, Canada.
Research Design
Qualitative descriptive sub-analysis of interviews from a comprehensive project on the training and practice of TMB, focused on the delivery of TMB therapies in practice.
Two broad themes emerged from the data: (1) every treatment is individualized, and (2) each practitioner’s practice of TMB therapies evolves. Individualization involves adapting treatment to the needs of the patient in the moment, based on deliberate and unconscious responses to verbal and nonverbal cues. Individualization starts with initial assessment and continues throughout the treatment encounter. Expertise is depicted as more nuanced and skilful individualization and treatment, evolved through experience, ongoing training, and spontaneous technique exploration. Practitioners consider such individualization and development of experience desirable. Furthermore, ongoing training and experience result in therapy application unique to each practitioner. Most practitioners believed they could not apply a TMB therapy without influence from other TMB therapies they had learned.
There are ramifications for research design, knowledge translation, and education. Few practitioners are likely able to administer treatments in the same way, and most would not like to practice without being able to individualize treatment. TMB clinical studies need to employ research methods that accommodate the complexity of clinical practice. TMB education should facilitate the maturation of practice skills and self-reflection, including the mindful integration of multiple TMB therapies.
PMCID: PMC3577637  PMID: 23481609
complementary therapies/methods; massage; musculoskeletal manipulations; clinical competence; decision-making; qualitative research; clinical practice
6.  Prescribing gabapentin off label: Perspectives from psychiatry, pain and neurology specialists 
Canadian Pharmacists Journal : CPJ  2012;145(6):280-284.e1.
Objective: The objective of the study was to explore the experiences of physicians prescribing gabapentin off label.
Methods: We used a case study approach to explore the experiences of physicians prescribing gabapentin for off-label indications. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 physicians (psychiatry, pain and neurology specialists) in the Greater Toronto Area. Data were collected to the point of saturation of key themes and analyzed using interpretive content analysis.
Key findings: Key informants appeared to rely primarily on informal information from colleagues and meetings, putting into question the accuracy of their information about the potential off-label uses of gabapentin. Our findings suggest the need for more evidence-based information on off-label drug use.
Conclusion: There is a need for greater understanding of off-label prescribing practices as an important step toward improving rational prescribing and ultimately toward improving patient safety and health outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3567599  PMID: 23509590
7.  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
9.  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
10.  Investigating clinical heterogeneity in systematic reviews: a methodologic review of guidance in the literature 
While there is some consensus on methods for investigating statistical and methodological heterogeneity, little attention has been paid to clinical aspects of heterogeneity. The objective of this study is to summarize and collate suggested methods for investigating clinical heterogeneity in systematic reviews.
We searched databases (Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, and CONSORT, to December 2010) and reference lists and contacted experts to identify resources providing suggestions for investigating clinical heterogeneity between controlled clinical trials included in systematic reviews. We extracted recommendations, assessed resources for risk of bias, and collated the recommendations.
One hundred and one resources were collected, including narrative reviews, methodological reviews, statistical methods papers, and textbooks. These resources generally had a low risk of bias, but there was minimal consensus among them. Resources suggested that planned investigations of clinical heterogeneity should be made explicit in the protocol of the review; clinical experts should be included on the review team; a set of clinical covariates should be chosen considering variables from the participant level, intervention level, outcome level, research setting, or others unique to the research question; covariates should have a clear scientific rationale; there should be a sufficient number of trials per covariate; and results of any such investigations should be interpreted with caution.
Though the consensus was minimal, there were many recommendations in the literature for investigating clinical heterogeneity in systematic reviews. Formal recommendations for investigating clinical heterogeneity in systematic reviews of controlled trials are required.
PMCID: PMC3564789  PMID: 22846171
11.  Measurement Properties of Questionnaires Assessing Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Pediatrics: A Systematic Review 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39611.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is commonly used by children, but estimates of that use vary widely partly due to the range of questionnaires used to assess CAM use. However, no studies have attempted to appraise measurement properties of these questionnaires. The aim of this systematic review was to critically appraise and summarize measurement properties of questionnaires of CAM use in pediatrics.
Study design
A search strategy was implemented in major electronic databases in March 2011 and conference websites, scientific journals and experts were consulted. Studies were included if they mentioned a questionnaire assessing the prevalence of CAM use in pediatrics. Members of the team independently rated the methodological quality of the studies (using the COSMIN checklist) and measurement properties of the questionnaires (using the Terwee and Cohen criteria).
A total of 96 CAM questionnaires were found in 104 publications. The COSMIN checklist showed that no studies reported adequate methodological quality. The Terwee criteria showed that all included CAM questionnaires had indeterminate measurement properties. According to the Cohen score, none were considered to be a well-established assessment, two approached the level of a well-established assessment, seven were promising assessments and the remainder (n = 87) did not reach the score’s minimum standards.
None of the identified CAM questionnaires have been thoroughly validated. This systematic review highlights the need for proper validation of CAM questionnaires in pediatrics, which may in turn lead to improved research and knowledge translation about CAM in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3387262  PMID: 22768098
12.  An empirical study using permutation-based resampling in meta-regression 
Systematic Reviews  2012;1:18.
In meta-regression, as the number of trials in the analyses decreases, the risk of false positives or false negatives increases. This is partly due to the assumption of normality that may not hold in small samples. Creation of a distribution from the observed trials using permutation methods to calculate P values may allow for less spurious findings. Permutation has not been empirically tested in meta-regression. The objective of this study was to perform an empirical investigation to explore the differences in results for meta-analyses on a small number of trials using standard large sample approaches verses permutation-based methods for meta-regression.
We isolated a sample of randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) for interventions that have a small number of trials (herbal medicine trials). Trials were then grouped by herbal species and condition and assessed for methodological quality using the Jadad scale, and data were extracted for each outcome. Finally, we performed meta-analyses on the primary outcome of each group of trials and meta-regression for methodological quality subgroups within each meta-analysis. We used large sample methods and permutation methods in our meta-regression modeling. We then compared final models and final P values between methods.
We collected 110 trials across 5 intervention/outcome pairings and 5 to 10 trials per covariate. When applying large sample methods and permutation-based methods in our backwards stepwise regression the covariates in the final models were identical in all cases. The P values for the covariates in the final model were larger in 78% (7/9) of the cases for permutation and identical for 22% (2/9) of the cases.
We present empirical evidence that permutation-based resampling may not change final models when using backwards stepwise regression, but may increase P values in meta-regression of multiple covariates for relatively small amount of trials.
PMCID: PMC3351721  PMID: 22587815
13.  Pharmacists and Natural Health Products: A systematic analysis of professional responsibilities in Canada 
Pharmacy practice  2008;6(1):33-42.
Natural health products (natural health products) such as herbs, vitamins and homeopathic medicines are widely available in Canadian pharmacies. The purpose of this paper was to conduct a systematic analysis of Canadian pharmacy policies and guidelines to explore pharmacists’ professional responsibilities with respect to natural health products.
Legislation, codes of ethics, standards of practice and guidance documents that apply to the practice of pharmacy in each Canadian jurisdiction were systematically collected and examined to identify if, and how, these instruments establish professional duties in regard to natural health products.
The majority of Canadian jurisdictions now include some explicit reference to natural health products in standards of practice policy or guideline documents. Often natural health products are simply assumed to be included in the over-the-counter (OTC) product category and thus professional responsibilities for OTCs are relevant for natural health products. A minority of provinces have specific policies on natural health products, herbals or homeopathy. In addition, the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities’ Model Standards of Practice specifically refers to natural health products. Most policy documents indicate that pharmacists should inquire about natural health product use when counselling patients and, when asked, should provide accurate information regarding the efficacy, toxicity, side effects or interactions of natural health products. Public messaging also indicates that pharmacists are knowledgeable professionals who can provide evidence-based information about natural health products.
Explicit policies or guidelines regarding pharmacists’ professional responsibilities with respect to natural health products currently exist in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions.
PMCID: PMC3265537  PMID: 22282720 CAMSID: cams1356
pharmacist; legal responsibilities; natural health products; dietary supplements
14.  Meaning and challenges in the practice of multiple therapeutic massage modalities: a combined methods study 
Therapeutic massage and bodywork (TMB) practitioners are predominantly trained in programs that are not uniformly standardized, and in variable combinations of therapies. To date no studies have explored this variability in training and how this affects clinical practice.
Combined methods, consisting of a quantitative, population-based survey and qualitative interviews with practitioners trained in multiple therapies, were used to explore the training and practice of TMB practitioners in Alberta, Canada.
Of the 5242 distributed surveys, 791 were returned (15.1%). Practitioners were predominantly female (91.7%), worked in a range of environments, primarily private (44.4%) and home clinics (35.4%), and were not significantly different from other surveyed massage therapist populations. Seventy-seven distinct TMB therapies were identified. Most practitioners were trained in two or more therapies (94.4%), with a median of 8 and range of 40 therapies. Training programs varied widely in number and type of TMB components, training length, or both. Nineteen interviews were conducted. Participants described highly variable training backgrounds, resulting in practitioners learning unique combinations of therapy techniques. All practitioners reported providing individualized patient treatment based on a responsive feedback process throughout practice that they described as being critical to appropriately address the needs of patients. They also felt that research treatment protocols were different from clinical practice because researchers do not usually sufficiently acknowledge the individualized nature of TMB care provision.
The training received, the number of therapies trained in, and the practice descriptors of TMB practitioners are all highly variable. In addition, clinical experience and continuing education may further alter or enhance treatment techniques. Practitioners individualize each patient's treatment through a highly adaptive process. Therefore, treatment provision is likely unique to each practitioner. These results may be of interest to researchers considering similar practice issues in other professions. The use of a combined-methods design effectively captured this complexity of TMB practice. TMB research needs to consider research approaches that can capture or adapt to the individualized nature of practice.
PMCID: PMC3187727  PMID: 21929823
15.  Mothers’ beliefs about analgesia during childhood immunization 
Paediatrics & Child Health  2010;15(5):289-293.
Immunization injections are the most common painful medical procedures experienced during childhood, yet there is a discrepancy between recommendations for the effective use of topical anesthetics to reduce vaccine injection pain and actual practice.
To improve our understanding of mothers’ experiences and practices regarding their children’s routine immunizations.
Adopting an interpretive, naturalistic paradigm, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 mothers to examine their perceptions and experiences of their children’s immunization pain and pain management.
The findings demonstrated three main themes: attitudes toward immunization pain, immunization pain management and physicians as sources of information. Participants described feeling distressed while their children were being immunized, but most managed these difficulties by focusing on the benefits of immunization and by minimizing or justifying the pain. All of the participants used non-pharmacological techniques to manage immunization injection pain. Few mothers were aware of the availability of topical anesthetics. When participants did use pharmacological analgesic approaches, oral analgesics were most likely to be used for prophylaxis and treatment of fever, and participants were unaware of evidence-based approaches to managing pain. Participants viewed their physicians as trusted sources of information, and the majority said that they would likely use a topical anesthetic in the future if recommended or approved by their physician.
The present findings provide direction for future knowledge translation activities to enhance the knowledge of mothers and clinicians regarding pain during immunization injections and its effective management.
PMCID: PMC2912630  PMID: 21532793
Child; Immunization; Infant; Pain management; Qualitative research; Topical anesthetics
16.  Ginkgo biloba for the treatment of vitilgo vulgaris: an open label pilot clinical trial 
Vitiligo is a common hypopigmentation disorder with significant psychological impact if occurring before adulthood. A pilot clinical trial to determine the feasibility of an RCT was conducted and is reported here.
12 participants 12 to 35 years old were recruited to a prospective open-label pilot trial and treated with 60 mg of standardized G. biloba two times per day for 12 weeks. The criteria for feasibility included successful recruitment, 75% or greater retention, effectiveness and lack of serious adverse reactions. Effectiveness was assessed using the Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (VASI) and the Vitiligo European Task Force (VETF), which are validated outcome measures evaluating the area and intensity of depigmentation of vitiligo lesions. Other outcomes included photographs and adverse reactions. Safety was assessed by serum coagulation factors (platelets, PTT, INR) at baseline and week 12.
After 2 months of recruitment, the eligible upper age limit was raised from 18 to 35 years of age in order to facilitate recruitment of the required sample size. Eleven participants completed the trial with 85% or greater adherence to the protocol. The total VASI score improved by 0.5 (P = 0.021) from 5.0 to 4.5, range of scale 0 (no depigmentation) to 100 (completely depigmented). The progression of vitiligo stopped in all participants; the total VASI indicated an average repigmentation of vitiligo lesions of 15%. VETF total vitiligo lesion area decreased 0.4% (P = 0.102) from 5.9 to 5.6 from baseline to week 12. VETF staging score improved by 0.7 (P = 0.101) from 6.6 to 5.8, and the VETF spreading score improved by 3.9 (P < 0.001)) from 2.7 to -1.2. There were no statistically significant changes in platelet count, PTT, or INR.
The criteria for feasibility were met after increasing the maximum age limit of the successful recruitment criterion; participant retention, safety and effectiveness criteria were also met. Ingestion of 60 mg of Ginkgo biloba BID was associated with a significant improvement in total VASI vitiligo measures and VETF spread, and a trend towards improvement on VETF measures of vitiligo lesion area and staging. Larger, randomized double-blind clinical studies are warranted and appear feasible.
Trial Registration
Clinical registration number NCT00907062
PMCID: PMC3065445  PMID: 21406109
17.  Practitioners' validation of framework of team-oriented practice models in integrative health care: a mixed methods study 
Biomedical and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) academic and clinical communities have yet to arrive at a common understanding of what Integrative healthcare (IHC) is and how it is practiced. The Models of Team Health Care Practice (MTHP) framework is a conceptual representation of seven possible practice models of health care within which teams of practitioners could elect to practice IHC, from an organizational perspective. The models range from parallel practice at one end to integrative practice at the other end. Models differ theoretically, based on a series of hypotheses. To date, this framework has not been empirically validated. This paper aims to test nine hypotheses in an attempt to validate the MTHP framework.
Secondary analysis of two studies carried out by the same research team was conducted, using a mixed methods approach. Data were collected from both biomedical and CAM practitioners working in Canadian IHC clinics. The secondary analysis is based on 21 participants in the qualitative study and 87 in the quantitative study.
We identified three groups among the initial seven models in the MTHP framework. Differences between practitioners working in different practice models were found chiefly between those who thought that their clinics represented an integrative model, versus those who perceived their clinics to represent a parallel or consultative model. Of the scales used in the analysis, only the process of information sharing varied significantly across all three groups of models.
The MTHP framework should be used with caution to guide the evaluation of the impact of team-oriented practice models on both subjective and objective outcomes of IHC. Groups of models may be more useful, because clinics may not "fit" under a single model when more than one model of collaboration occurs at a single site. The addition of a hypothesis regarding power relationships between practitioners should be considered. Further validation is required so that integrative practice models are well described with appropriate terminology, thus facilitating the work of health care practitioners, managers, policy makers and researchers.
PMCID: PMC2974681  PMID: 20942973
18.  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
20.  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
21.  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
22.  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
23.  Consumers of natural health products: natural-born pharmacovigilantes? 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2847952  PMID: 20184759
24.  Herbal remedy clinical trials in the media: a comparison with the coverage of conventional pharmaceuticals 
BMC Medicine  2008;6:35.
This study systematically compares newspaper coverage of clinical trials for herbal remedies, a popular type of complementary and alternative medicine, with clinical trials for pharmaceuticals using a comparative content analysis. This is a timely inquiry given the recognized importance of the popular press as a source of health information, the complex and significant role of complementary and alternative medicine in individual health-care decisions, and the trend toward evidence-based research for some complementary and alternative medical therapies. We searched PubMed for clinical trials, Lexis/Nexis for newspaper articles in the UK, US, Australia/New Zealand, and Factiva for Canadian newspaper articles from 1995 to 2005. We used a coding frame to analyze and compare 48 pharmaceutical and 57 herbal remedy clinical trials as well as 201 pharmaceutical and 352 herbal remedy newspaper articles.
Herbal remedy clinical trials had similar Jadad scores to pharmaceutical trials but were significantly smaller and of shorter duration. The trials were mostly studies from Western countries and published in high-ranking journals. The majority of pharmaceutical (64%) and herbal remedy (53%) clinical trials had private sector funding involvement. A minority declared further author conflicts of interest. Newspaper coverage of herbal remedy clinical trials was more negative than for pharmaceutical trials; a result only partly explained by the greater proportion of herbal remedy clinical trials reporting negative results (P = 0.0201; χ2 = 7.8129; degrees of freedom = 2). Errors of omission were common in newspaper coverage, with little reporting of dose, sample size, location, and duration of the trial, methods, trial funding, and conflicts of interest. There was an under-reporting of risks, especially for herbal remedies.
Our finding of negative coverage of herbal remedy trials is contrary to the positive trends in most published research based primarily on anecdotal accounts. Our results highlight how media coverage is not providing the public with the information necessary to make informed decisions about medical treatments. Most concerning is the lack of disclosure of trial funding and conflicts of interest that could influence the outcome or reporting of trial results. This lack of reporting may impact the medical research community, which has the most to lose by way of public trust and respect.
PMCID: PMC2647939  PMID: 19036123
25.  Canadian Pharmacy Students' Knowledge of Herbal Medicine 
To determine fourth-year Canadian pharmacy students' knowledge of herbal medicine and whether that knowledge is associated with mandatory instruction in herbal medicine.
Standardized multiple-choice tests assessing students' herbal knowledge were distributed to all fourth-year BSc pharmacy students at 5 pharmacy schools in Canada.
The Quebec response rate was too low to include in the analysis. Herbal knowledge test scores were positively associated with having previously taken an herbal medicine class and completion of a pharmacy practicum. However, postsecondary education, age, and gender were not associated with herbal knowledge test scores. Students at the University of British Columbia had the highest score, followed by Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Ontario.
Pharmacy students' knowledge of herbal medicine varies depending on the school attended and higher herbal knowledge test scores appear to be most closely related to mandatory herbal instruction.
PMCID: PMC2576414  PMID: 19002275
herbal supplements; complementary and alternative medicine; assessment

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