Magazine article Drug Topics

Herbal Supplements Are Hot Sellers

Magazine article Drug Topics

Herbal Supplements Are Hot Sellers

Article excerpt

Pharmacists can teach clients about interactions

Herbal supplements are among the most commonly used complementary and alternative medical therapies. The quarterly journal of the American Botanical Council, HerbalGram, reported that 2008 sales of herbal supplements in the United States reached $4.8 billion. About $289 million of these sales occurred at mainstream outlets such as food, drug, and mass outlets (excluding Wal-Mart), according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI). This was an increase of more than 7 percent from 2007.

Why the sudden increase after several years of declining sales? Some believe the economic down- turn has caused patients to forgo expensive prescrip- tions in place of less-expen- sive herbal alternatives. The increase in use may also be connected to the growing number of consumers who view herbal supplements as all-natural and safe to in- gest. Yet other reasons for increased use may include the accessibility of herbal supplements and consumer dissatisfaction with prescription medications.

Consumers are using herbs for a number of rea- sons. They want to lower cholesterol, shorten the duration of colds, improve memory or energy levels, reduce pain, lose weight, and protect vision. A Nielsen survey reported by Functional Ingrethents magazine showed that 55 percent of North Americans take supplements proactively to boost their immune systems.

Self-Rx, Tx with herbals is common

Do herbal supplements work? Many shoppers believe that they do and are already taking them. This is illustrated by a 2008 Nielsen Global Online Survey that found that more than half of all U.S. consumers use supplements. Three quarters of those consumers say that they use supplements every day.

Many consumers self-diagnose their conditions and self-prescribe herbal medications on the basis of marketing claims, advice from friends, books, blog posts, and other Internet sources. In fact, the Pew Research Center recently reported that the number of adults who tum to the Internet for health information has nearly doubled in the past two years, from 3 1 percent to 60 percent. These are typically nonclinical sources, and for patients who follow what they read or hear without talking to a medical practitioner, the consequences could be devastating.

Herb-drug interactions

The overall public perception is that because herbs are natural, they must be safe. …

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