Premnath Rosunee, Pharmacy Roshni

Premnath Rosunee, Pharmacy Roshni

Pharmacists can contribute to the safe use of Health Supplements 

Health supplements are more and more on the market. Premnath Rosunee, pharmacist at Pharmacy Roshni sheds light on their uses and potential counter effects.

Can you define what are health supplements?

Health supplements can be defined as a range of products which includes vitamins, minerals, amino acids and its preparations and other herbal and botanical compositions. They are available without a doctor’s prescription and are mainly used to assist in the management of minor ailments. Most of them have demonstrated efficacy as adjunct in the management of health conditions; however they do not warrant the same rigorous safety and efficacy trials which would apply to medications. Health supplements may vary from one brand to another in content and efficacy; it is therefore important to ascertain the quality of the brand in terms of the manufacturing standards, quality of the manufacturer etc.

Seemingly harmless due to ease in availability, people take supplements on a daily basis. While beneficial to some, supplements can also be harmful. What are your views on the matter?

Ease of access to health supplements in Mauritius through the increasing number of health/food supplement shops, supermarkets and more recently the hype towards e-commerce and online shopping but also auto medication resulting from a plethora of information through the internet may give a false sense of security to consumers in regards to safety and efficacy. In reality, almost 1 in 4 prescription drug users also consume health supplements and run the risk of exposing themselves to drug-drug interactions which can either reduce the efficacy of their prescription medication or result in serious and sometimes life-threatening side effects. Research concerning these interactions is rapidly evolving and a number of them have been well documented, namely in patients taking anticoagulants, heart medications, psychiatric medications, laxatives, diabetes medications and antiretrovirals. The most commonly studied health supplements include products containing St. John’s wort, Gingko Biloba, Fish oils, Garlic, Ginseng and more commonly used mineral supplements such as Iron, Calcium and Magnesium. It is worth pointing out the reporting of Serotonin Syndrome (a life threatening condition) with the usage of St John’s wort in combination with a very commonly prescribed SSRI group of antidepressants.

What role can a pharmacist play to promote good use of health Supplements?

The importance of the intervention of Pharmacists in systematically reviewing patient’s medications profile more so for those on multiple prescription drugs with the view of detecting not only potential drug-drug interactions but also probable drug-supplement interactions. Pharmacists are well trained professionals who understand the importance of proper history taking through open ended questions and who make good use of a number valuable tools such as interaction checkers and other relevant documentations. They are also keen learners ready to keep abreast with new research and recent publications.

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