Get Good Advice When Buying Supplements

There was a thought-provoking article on the other day on the role of pharmacists in helping us select the right dietary supplements.

As a trained pharmacist, I can tell you that our profession’s bias towards supplements is mostly negative.

Jim Depuy, pharmacist checking in order

A smart, well-trained pharmacist in action. But can he advise you on dietary supplements?

In general, pharmacists tend to focus on the prescription drugs they are dispensing, and not the supplements that they are not dispensing. Over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relievers, are different in that a) they are very similar to prescription products, and b) well-covered in pharmacy school.

Neither are the case for most supplements. But, this appears to be changing. According to the article:

93% of pharmacists recommend supplements to their patients, while 87% believe that supplements can play an important role in improving or maintaining the health of their patients. Additionally, pharmacists reported being most often asked about omega-3/fish oil (noted by 75%), calcium (73%) and glucosamine/chondroitin (70%).

In other words, as consumer demand for supplements has increased, so to has the pharmacist’s role in providing information and education for these products.

We think the most critical role a pharmacist can play is in assessing any potential interactions between supplements and prescription drugs. There are databases which can help find such interactions (in fact, we at WisdomAndHealth have access to one). But, even these databases can be incomplete. Ultimately, that’s where the pharmacy training comes in handy. By understanding how prescription drugs and supplements work, theoretical interactions can be identified.

This is why it’s so important to buy your supplements from people and companies you can trust. Stay away from those super cheap, supermarket/super store brands and stick with quality brands and products. We also recommend sticking with simple supplements that have well-known ingredients. (This is why we’re not big fans of homeopathic medicine, Traumeel being the exception).

Still have questions about your supplements and your prescription medicines? Ask us! We’re here to help.