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1.  The role of natural health products (NHPs) in dietetic practice: results from a survey of Canadian dietitians 
Background
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).
Methods
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%.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-156
PMCID: PMC3703453  PMID: 23819488
Dietitians; Professional roles and responsibilities; Natural health products; Dietary supplements; Nutritional supplements; Functional foods; Nutraceuticals; Herbal preparations
2.  Understanding the role of scientific evidence in consumer evaluation of natural health products for osteoarthritis an application of the means end chain approach 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-198
PMCID: PMC3517436  PMID: 23107559
Natural health products; Decision-making; Means ends chain analysis; Osteoarthritis
3.  Ginkgo biloba for the treatment of vitilgo vulgaris: an open label pilot clinical trial 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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 trials.gov registration number NCT00907062
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-21
PMCID: PMC3065445  PMID: 21406109
4.  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
5.  U.S. and Canadian pharmacists' attitudes, knowledge, and professional practice behaviors toward dietary supplements: a systematic review 
Background
Although dietary supplements (DS) are widely sold in pharmacies, the legal, ethical, and practice responsibilities of pharmacists with respect to these products have not been well defined. This systematic review of pharmacists' attitudes, knowledge, and professional practice behaviours toward DS is intended to inform pharmacy regulators' and educators' decision making around this topic.
Methods
Eligible studies were identified through a systematic database search for all available years through to March 2006. Articles were analyzed for this review if they included survey data on U.S. or Canadian pharmacists' attitudes, knowledge, or professional practice behaviors toward DS published in 1990 or later.
Results
Due to the heterogeneity of the data, it was not possible to draw a conclusion with respect to pharmacists' general attitudes toward DS. Approximately equal numbers of pharmacists report positive as well as negative attitudes about the safety and efficacy of DS. There is strong agreement among pharmacists for the need to have additional training on DS, increased regulation of DS, and quality information on DS. In addition, survey data indicate that pharmacists do not perceive their knowledge of DS to be adequate and that pharmacists do not routinely document, monitor, or inquire about patients' use of DS. Despite this, a large proportion of pharmacists reported receiving questions about DS from patients and other health care practitioners.
Conclusion
Further research is needed to explore the factors that influence pharmacists' beliefs and attitudes about DS, to accurately evaluate pharmacists' knowledge of DS, and to uncover the reasons why pharmacists do not routinely document, monitor, or inquire about patients' use of DS.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-31
PMCID: PMC1586212  PMID: 16984649
6.  New Canadian natural health product regulations: a qualitative study of how CAM practitioners perceive they will be impacted 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-18
PMCID: PMC1481533  PMID: 16686960
7.  The use of CAM by women suffering from nausea and vomiting during pregnancy 
Background
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (NVP) affects two-thirds of pregnant women to varying degrees and over the years many modalities have been used to try to alleviate this often debilitating condition. There is a paucity of information in the literature about the use or efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for the treatment of this condition that affects so many women. Our primary objective was to examine the prevalence of CAM usage by women suffering from NVP. Our secondary objective was to ascertain if women had any supervision in the use of these treatments.
Methods
Women who called The Motherisk NVP helpline, were asked after the counseling session to complete a questionnaire, which included demographic data as well as information about their CAM use.
Results
Seventy women completed the questionnaire. 61% reported using CAM therapies, of which the three most popular were: ginger, vitamin B6 and acupressure. 21% of those who reported using CAM, had consulted CAM practitioners, 8% their physicians or pharmacists and 71% discussed the usage with family, friends and other allied health professionals. Women who did not use CAM stated they would probably use these modalities if there was more information about the safety in pregnancy.
Conclusion
Pregnant women with NVP are mirroring the trend in the general population of the use of CAM. They are also using CAM therapies with little supervision from practitioners experienced in the use of these modalities.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-2-5
PMCID: PMC113747  PMID: 12033990

Results 1-7 (7)