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Researcher: Cancer patients ought to confer with doctors on supplement use

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Acai berry, cumin, herbal tea, turmeric and long-term use of garlic may negatively impact chemotherapy treatment, according to a new report released Wednesday that originally was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago this summer.

Researchers from Northwestern Memorial hospital say there is growing evidence that these popular supplements may intensify or weaken the effect of chemotherapy drugs and in some cases, may cause a toxic, even lethal, reaction.

"With the growth of the Internet, patients have better access to information about alternative products and often turn to dietary and herbal supplements to treat their illness because they think they’re natural and safe," stated June McKoy, geriatrician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and lead investigator on the ASCO presentation. "What people don’t realize
is that supplements are more than just vitamins and can counteract medical therapies if not taken appropriately."

McKoy suggested more research is needed to understand which supplements interact with chemotherapy drugs and the extent of those interactions, and encourages patients to openly communicate with their physicians about the use of supplements.

"Patients need to tell their doctors what medications they are taking — including vitamins and supplements — to avoid any possible interaction," she said. Recent research found that half of patients undergoing chemotherapy did not tell their doctors they were taking alternative therapies. "Some believe it’s not important, while others are uncomfortable admitting they are pursuing alternative therapies," McKoy said. "The truth is, integrative approaches can be beneficial for cancer patients, but it’s important to take these approaches at the right time and under the supervision of your doctor."

McKoy plans to launch a pilot study this fall to examine how frequently conversations about supplements come up between cancer patients and their doctors. "By identifying communication barriers, we can take steps to improve doctor patient communication in order to prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions," she said. 

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J&J adds pain drug resources to responsible prescribing site

BY Alaric DeArment

RARITAN, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson has launched several new tools on a website aimed at ensuring patients with pain get the drugs they need while staying safe.

J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals added resources and tools to PrescribeResponsibly.com for physicians and pharmacists to support appropriate and responsible treatment of pain. The site was originally launched early last year.

The new materials include pain and risk assessments to help doctors evaluate pain, manage harmful side effects and identify aberrant drug-related behavior, as well as general educational content written by experts.

"Millions of adult Americans suffer with acute or chronic pain," Vanderbilt University psychiatry and anesthesiology professor Steven Passik said. "Determining how to treat pain poses a challenge to both physicians and patients. It is important to ensure that issues often associated with opioid pain medicines — including abuse, addiction, misuse and diversion — do not prevent patients who need relief from having access to appropriate pain treatment."

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Healthy Living Tour makes pit stop in Ga.

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN FRANCISCO — The Health Mart Healthy Living Tour recently offered free health screenings at the 7th Annual 13th Congressional District Health Fair, hosted by Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., earlier this month.

Aboard the Health Mart Healthy Living Tour’s 40-ft. mobile screening unit, tour staff offered screenings that include blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C tests.

Co-sponsored by Bayer Diabetes Care and Novo Nordisk, the Healthy Living Tour continues through Nov. 4. The mobile screening unit is making 90 stops across 18 states this year.

Additionally, Health Mart is rewarding 10 Health Mart pharmacists across the country for going above and beyond the call of duty to provide exemplary education, guidance and service to people managing diabetes. Health Mart and co-sponsor Bayer Diabetes Care will hold small recognition ceremonies to honor select pharmacists, the company announced.

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