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    Nutraceuticals: New Opportunities for Pharmacists

    Helping you (and your patients) navigate the increasingly complex world of dietary supplements.

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    Baby boomers are looking to optimize foods with dietary supplements, says Andrew Dahl, CEO of ZIVO Bioscience, Inc., a research and development firm. They are also motivated by concerns over increasing costs of prescription drugs and by supplements’ preventive characteristics, says Yvette La-Garde, Chief Operating Officer for VitaMedica, which manufactures and sells a line of dietary supplements.

    Table 1Mike Smith, MD, Director of Education for supplement supply company Life Extension, says younger consumers are looking for  lifestyle and life-specific supplements such as those for heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, pain, and high blood pressure and cholesterol.

    Overall, growth of nutritional supplements outpaced total store growth in the last year, with 5.8% year-over-year growth reaching a market total of $16 billion, according to Information Resources Inc. Total store growth was 1.2%, for a total market value of $757 billion, indicating dietary supplement sales grew at about five times the rate of total store sales in the last year.

    Time to Step Up

    Pharmacists can play an important role in helping consumers identify safe and effective supplements, says Marvin Moore, PharmD, President/Owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Two Rivers, WI. He advocates for consumers to buy products at pharmacies rather than online.

    “As small, independent pharmacies, we spend time answering questions as best we can and do research to determine if products work and are efficacious. We can’t make promises about safety but if we carry a product, we believe in it and can study it,” Marvin Moore says.

    He says his customers often read about supplements online and in ads and are curious about them and concerned over their safety. His best sellers are iron, calcium, multivitamins, and vitamin D.

    Related article: Top 5 Problem Dietary Supplements

    Steve Moore, PharmD, Owner/Pharmacist, Condo Pharmacy in Plattsburgh, NY, (no relation to Marvin Moore), says dietary supplements comprise half of his total over-the-counter sales. He receives a fair amount of questions about supplements—especially because of his location in the upper Northeast where vitamin D deficiency is common in winter.

    “Doctors often send patients to a pharmacist to seek information on the kinds of products available. This is a great role for pharmacists because we are the most accessible medical professionals,” Steve Moore says. “We are comfortable answering questions because we have responsibility for making the right recommendations when some supplements could cause harm.” Two examples: a magnesium supplement taken for sleep or muscle cramps could be risky for someone with a kidney problem, or too much vitamin E could harm those with cardiac issues.

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