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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.  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
4.  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
5.  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 1-5 (5)