HEALTH

CRN criticizes article that discourages use of herbal supplements

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Council for Responsible Nutrition on Monday criticized the Journal of American College of Cardiology for publishing an “uninformed, inaccurate and outdated interpretation” of laws governing herbal supplements as part of a article discussing the use of herbal supplements in conjunction with heart-disease medicines.

Specifically, CRN criticized the recent publication of “Use of Herbal Products and Potential Interactions in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease,” an article originally submitted to the publication in June 2008 that cautions against the use of those herbals in patients with heart disease, for making general, unsupported statements. “The article contains sweeping generalizations, often not backed by relevant citations, and copious factual errors, including a reference to products — some of which are not actually herbal supplements — that produce adverse effects on the cardiovascular system,” stated Douglas MacKay, CRN VP scientific and regulatory affairs.

The article identifies nine ingredients that should be used with extreme caution by patients being treated for heart disease. Those supplements include: St. John’s wort, ginseng, ginkgo, garlic, saw palmetto, echinacea, yohimbine, licorice and black cohosh. The article also cautions against the consumption of grapefruits or grapefruit juice. Author Arshad Jahangir, cardiologist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., advises readers to consult with their physicians and pharmacists around possible herb-drug interactions.

CRN did agree that consumers should talk openly with their physician about the herbal supplements they are using or considering using, particularly if they are on medications, the association stated.

According to CRN, 24% of American adults take herbal supplements each year.

“According to the 2008 ‘Life…supplemented’ Healthcare Professionals Impact Study, 63% of cardiologists say that they inquire about the dietary supplements their patients are taking,” MacKay said. “Furthermore, the study shows that 73% of cardiologists agreed that a regimen of healthy eating, dietary supplements, exercise and other smart lifestyle choices is key to maintaining heart health,” he said. “Herbal supplements should not replace medications or the need for smart lifestyle choices like healthy diet and regular exercise, but instead should be integrated as part of a total health regimen.”

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CDC reports historic lows in flu activity

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The flu news coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week is that there is no flu news to speak of, at least relative to flu seasons past.

For the week ended Jan. 23, influenza activity remained at approximately the same levels as last week, the CDC reported, which is below historical levels for January.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 1.7%, falling below the national baseline of 2.3%. Only 2-out-of-10 regions (the Southeast and Southwest) reported ILI equal to their region-specific baseline. No states reported widespread influenza activity, five states reported regional influenza activity and nine states reported local influenza activity. Three states reported no influenza activity.

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CHPA to fight reverse-switch of PSE products in Mississippi with legislative line

BY Michael Johnsen

JACKSON, Miss. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association on Saturday announced a legislative line for consumers to call in an effort to fight a move to reverse-switch cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine from behind-the-counter to prescription-only.

“CHPA has provided a phone number for Mississippians to contact their legislators which within the first day fielded scores of calls from around the state,” stated CHPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Funderburk. “We have heard their outrage on talk radio, and online posting to news web pages. And recent polling shows almost two-thirds of Mississippi voters oppose the legislation,” she said. “Everyone wants to fight meth, but Mississippians believe an electronic tracking procedure is better than the added cost and burden of a prescription mandate.”

The toll-free number is 1-866-346-8118, or consumers can visit www.StopMethNotMeds.org.

According to the poll, 74% of Mississippi consumers agree that an Rx-only requirement would create an “unnecessary burden” for law-abiding citizens, and approximately 61% oppose the law.

Last week, the Mississippi House passed H.B. 512, legislation that would impose an Rx-only mandate on commonly available cold and allergy medications containing PSE. Identical legislation is currently being shepherded through the Senate (S.B. 2339).

“Because Mississippi does not tax prescription drugs, this legislation would also divert $590,000 from the general fund annually, as well as increase the costs to Mississippi’s Medicaid program through increased doctor’s visits and prescriptions as a result,” Funderburk added. “This would be an expensive new mandate from the state on the budgets of Mississippi families and Mississippi taxpayers. There is a better way to fight meth, and that’s through establishing an electronic tracking program to stop the illegal sale to criminals.”

The survey, conducted from Jan. 14 to Jan. 23, involved 350 Mississippi state residents ages 18 years and over, all of whom voted in the last election. The survey was sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

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