HEALTH

Supplement use high among cancer survivors

BY Michael Johnsen

SEATTLE Use of vitamin and mineral supplements among cancer survivors is widespread, despite inconclusive evidence that such use is beneficial, according to a comprehensive review of scientific literature conducted by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published Friday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Can vitamin and herbal supplements reduce the adverse effects of cancer treatment, decrease the risk of cancer recurrence or improve a patient’s chances of survival? We don’t really know. Research into these matters has been minimal,” stated senior author Cornelia Ulrich, an associate member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division. “While supplement use may be beneficial for some patients, such as those who cannot eat a balanced diet, research suggests that certain supplements may actually interfere with treatment or even accelerate cancer growth,” she said.

In reviewing 32 studies conducted between 1999 and 2006, Ulrich and co-author Christine Velicer, an epidemiologist at Merck Research Laboratory in North Wales, Pa., found that between 64 percent and 81 percent of cancer survivors overall reported using vitamins or minerals (excluding multivitamins), whereas in the general population only 50 percent of adults reported taking dietary supplements.

Survivors of breast cancer reported the highest use (75 percent to 87 percent), whereas prostate-cancer survivors reported the least (26 percent to 35 percent). Factors associated with the highest level of supplement use overall included a higher level of education and being female, the authors concluded.

The researchers also found that many people initiate the use of vitamins and supplements after a cancer diagnosis; between 14 percent and 32 percent started taking them after learning they had cancer.

“Cancer survivors report that they hope to strengthen their immune system with supplement use or gain a sense of control and empowerment,” Ulrich said. However, many cancer survivors who use supplements do not let their doctors know; 31 percent to 68 percent of cancer patients and survivors who use supplements may not disclose this information or their doctors may fail to record it in their charts.

Knowing about supplement use is crucial, she added, because of potential adverse effects. “Evidence clearly suggests the need for caution,” Ulrich said. “Some vitamins, such as folic acid, may be involved in cancer progression while others, such as St. John’s wort, can interfere with chemotherapy. However, we really need more research to understand whether use of these supplements can be beneficial or do more harm than good.”

The National Cancer Institute funded the research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

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Matrixx releases Q3 financial results

BY Michael Johnsen

PHOENIX Matrixx Initiatives Thursday morning released financial results for its fiscal 2008 third quarter and nine months ended Dec. 31.

And while the company recorded a net loss for the quarter of $635,000 and a 13.5 percent decline in net sales to $68 million, the period falls before the cold and flu illness rates began picking up in January.

“Our year-to-date results reflect the extreme weakness in the cold season through December,” commented Carl Johnson, Matrixx president and chief executive officer. “The incidence of colds and flu in the general population during the quarter … was the lowest since Zicam was introduced in 1999,” Johnson said, adding that the low incidence of illness was compounded by the fact that many retailers carried less inventory of cough and cold products going into this season than in seasons past. “This year our factory orders were nearly equal to retail unit consumption for the quarter ended Dec. 31,” he noted. “This change in factory orders more closely mirroring retail consumption leads us to believe factory orders will follow consumption more closely during our fourth quarter ending March 31.”

And that means a projected uptick in sales—Matrixx has projected fiscal 2008 net sales to be as much as 5 percent above the $97.6 million recorded last year.

“For the 12 weeks ended Dec. 30, category retail sales of cough and cold products decreased approximately 5 percent, compared to the prior year; and, during the same period, Zicam sales decreased 7 percent compared to the prior year,” Johnson said.

Matrixx also announced their transition from brokerage representation, courtesy of the Emerson Group, to an in-house sales force. “We believe our new sales force will help us achieve new product acceptance at retail, increase distribution and lower overall sales expense in the future,” Johnson said, adding that Matrixx has signed at least one national retailer in launching its Xcid antacid, which is expected to hit shelves by the end of March. A launch into the gastrointestinal space, if successful, will help to diversify Matrixx’ portfolio from its heavy reliance on the cough-cold season.

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CRN announces continuing education grant

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Council for Responsible Nutrition on Wednesday announced it would supply a grant to help support continuing education programs on dietary supplements for retail pharmacists.

“According to our annual CRN Consumer Confidence Survey, 40 percent of consumers say that they trust pharmacists as a reliable source of information on supplements, second only to doctors,” stated Judy Blatman, vice president, communications, CRN. “It’s so important that we help ensure pharmacists have appropriate education options when it comes to learning about our industry and its products. We selected Drug Store News Pharmacy Practice as the accredited education provider because of their long-term expertise in providing pharmacists with practical continuing education programs.”

The grant will allow retail pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to receive CE credits from one or two courses, by choosing either an on-line or in-print version. Drug Store News will market the program to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy schools through a series of promotional emails, postcards and advertisements placed in the publication.

The first home study lesson—”The Regulation of Dietary Supplements”—will be presented by industry consultant Annette Dickinson. Dickinson has served as president of CRN in the past. It will be delivered in the April issue of Drug Store News Pharmacy Practice to 88,000 retail pharmacists and through an Internet based live webinar that will be presented twice in late February to allow for maximum participation. The program will also be available on the Drug Store News CE web site for three years. Participants who successfully complete the print program will receive two CE contact hours of credit, while webinar participants will receive one CE contact hour of credit.

The CE program will specifically address questions such as how dietary supplements are regulated; what pharmacists should know about dietary supplement regulations; what the new good manufacturing practices for dietary supplements mean; what the new adverse event reporting law means and what procedures should be taken if a pharmacist receives a report; and other upcoming issues relating to regulation of dietary supplements.

The educator for the second home study lesson is still to be determined; however, the topic will focus on dietary supplement research and the paradigm of prevention, presenting information on how dietary supplements are being studied by the scientific community and comparing research models for drugs and dietary supplements.

“We appreciate CRN’s educational grant and decision to work with Drug Store News,” stated Kimberly Werner, program director of CE Programs for Drug Store News. “Pharmacists are on the front lines when it comes to talking to consumers about their health decisions, so it is important that they are well-informed and well-educated.”

Registration for the webinar is currently open. Visit www.cedrugstorenews.com to register for the webinar. 

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