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    Nutraceuticals: New Opportunities for Pharmacists

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


    If consumers are using several dietary supplements, pharmacists might need to perform a comprehensive medication review, in the same way they review prescription medications.

    Duffy MacKay, ND (Doctor of Naturopathy), says conversations about adverse interactions between drugs and dietary supplements are an ideal opportunity for pharmacists to communicate with consumers. “In this way, pharmacists can participate in both sides of a drugstore; they can play a pivotal role when prescription drugs and dietary supplements are integrated,” says MacKay, who is the Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at CRN.

    Honing Your Skills

    In general, most pharmacists have a baseline knowledge of nutraceuticals and know the most problematic interactions and side effects, according to the NCPA.

    “There are some pharmacists who have chosen to learn about nutraceuticals at a very deep level and built a business model around their pharmaceutical and nutraceutical expertise. The average pharmacist, however, might not be as familiar with insights about subpopulations and specific products that are available,” an NCPA spokesperson says.

    A 2015 study published in Healthcare examined the views of pharmacists regarding giving dietary advice to patients. It found that they perceive they have a role in the delivery of information about supplements and should recognize the value of referring patients to specialists, such as dieticians, and of accessing appropriate nutrition information.Table 2

    John Pezzuto, PhD, is concerned that some pharmacists may not know enough about toxicity, interactions with prescription drugs, and possible overdosing, making it difficult for them to recommend nutraceuticals. “Pharmacists also might be too busy to answer questions and may find it difficult to know what to say,” says Pezzuto, who is Professor and Dean of the Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Long Island University in New York.

    The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy (ACPE) Education Standards require course work on natural products in all PharmD programs. 

    ACPE has a curricular expectation that includes coverage of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements.  For natural products and alternative and complementary therapies, there should be evidence-based evaluation of the therapeutic value, safety, and regulation of pharmacologically active natural products and dietary supplements. Education should also include information about the cultural practices of practitioners and/or patients  and their potential impact on pharmacotherapy. ACPE also  has a database of continuing pharmacy education activities  on subjects such as herbal medicines and supplements.


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