Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Evolution of a Natural Products and Nutraceuticals Course in the Pharmacy Curriculum

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Evolution of a Natural Products and Nutraceuticals Course in the Pharmacy Curriculum

Article excerpt


The use of nonprescription products such as dietary supplements, herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals (collectively known as "natural products") is increasing in the United States and in other developed countries. (1-3) Use of natural products is more common among whites, women, seniors, and those with a higher socio-economic status. Natural products also are used by patients who have serious chronic ailments, such as cancer, metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. (4) About 1 in 3 Americans routinely use natural products without reporting to or consulting their primary-care physicians. (5) The unregulated use of natural products, which results in billions of dollars in annual sales, can pose a considerable risk to patient health. (5) Because of their role in health care and accessibility to patients, pharmacists play a fundamental role in providing advice to ensure safe and effective use of self-care products. To help patients determine whether self-care with nonprescription products or consultation with a health-care provider is necessary, pharmacists need to be proficient in self-care counseling skills. (6-9) Thus, pharmacy students need evidence-based training in self-care. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) Standards and Guidelines for the Professional Program in Pharmacy Leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree recommend pharmacy students be provided instruction in the use of nonprescription self-care products. (10) About 80% of pharmacy schools in the United States offer instruction in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which mostly focuses on self-care use of natural products. (11)

The use of natural products is an important component of CAM and has emerged as a popular means of self-care. (12-14) The American College of Clinical Pharmacy published a white paper on the use of natural products in the United States. The paper noted that although pharmacists are participants in the self-care of patients who are taking an increasing number of natural products, most pharmacists are not adequately educated about natural products and other types of CAM. Thus, the white paper recommended to make natural products an integral part of the pharmacy curriculum. (15) More than a decade ago, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health funded an initiative called the CAM Education Project to incorporate CAM into the curriculum of conventional health professions schools. (16-18) Since then, instruction in CAM and self-care--specifically, the use of natural products--rose steadily and became an integral part of the curriculum at many colleges of pharmacy. (19-25)

During the fall semester of the first year, pharmacy students at the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy are instructed on nonprescription products and self-care, which is their first exposure to this concept and its content. However, little time is dedicated to natural products. To fulfill the objective of providing more focused and effective instruction in the use of natural products, we developed and implemented a required course for second-year pharmacy students in the fall semester. The Natural Products and Nutraceuticals course is team-taught and provides an understanding of basic scientific, therapeutic, and clinical principles as well as the evidence-based medicine underlying the use of natural products, including their efficacy, adverse effects, and drug interactions. In this article, we describe the development and evolution of this course and its objectives which, in its latest form, was well-received and popular with students, who commented on its usefulness in counseling patients during site visits. Also highlighted in the article are teaching methods and techniques employed over the years, lecture topics, content, and student evaluations of the course and its objectives.


A 28-hour required course, Natural Products and Nutraceuticals, was offered for the first time in fall 2008 to second-year pharmacy students. …

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