Blog by Mark Wolfe, Customer Account Representative, GrandView Pharmacy

Dietary Supplements used to refer to vitamins and minerals, but today this industry makes and sells products containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, amino acids, herbs, probiotics, or hormones in them. (1) [Aging Care, August 30, 2018]

Additionally, these items are available in the form of pills, capsules, tablets, powders, gel tabs and liquids. Visit any retail pharmacy and you will find entire rows of products consisting of “dietary supplements.” There are all sorts of advertisements touting the advantages of taking gingko biloba, horehound, Fish Oil, an array of vitamins from A, B, B12, C, D, etc, etc. Each one making claims to aid in such things as memory, the digestive tract, enhancing bone health, anti-inflammatory and so on.

The dietary supplement industry is big business. It is estimated that in the USA alone in November of 2017 to be in excess of $37.1 BILLION dollars! Vitamins, alone, account for over $9 Billion dollars of that figure. (2) WebMD, Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, June 30, 2018.

Dietary Supplements can be both beneficial and harmful to one’s health. This is especially true in adults aged 60 years and older. Within the senior living community there needs to be thoughtful consideration given to the use of these supplements. Why is that? First, has the resident notified his/her primary care physician what he/she is taking in addition to the prescription medications that they already take? “Some dietary supplements may increase the effect of your medication(s), and other dietary supplements may decrease it” (Robert Mozersky, Medical Officer, Food & Drug Administration). Second, as humans age, their kidney and liver function change. This affects the changes in absorption, metabolism, or excretion of a medication, altering its potency and efficacy. ( 10/27/14, Mixing Medications and Dietary Supplements Can Endanger Your Health)

For example:
Warfarin may be prescribed. The resident also takes Ginkgo Biloba to enhance memory and brain function. The resident also takes Vitamin E for disease prevention and general health; and finally, aspirin to prevent heart attack. In this example the resident is taking one prescription medication, Warfarin; one over-the-counter med (aspirin); and two dietary supplements. While Warfarin is designed for blood thinning and no doubt prescribed for that specific need, aspirin, too, is a blood thinner. The shock is that the Ginkgo Biloba and the Vitamin E individually can both thin the blood. Use of these four items concurrently could have an extremely detrimental effect of one’s health and extremely dangerous.

Therefore, it is important to monitor the use of these supplements when providing healthcare to residents in long term care settings. This is especially necessary in Assisted Living facilities where residents still self-medicate. Consult with your Grandview Consultant Pharmacists about any residents that you have that take numerous Dietary Supplements along with their prescription medications.

About the Author

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