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Doctor-patient communication about dietary supplements could use a vitamin boost
Date:7/1/2013

Vitamins, minerals, herbs and other dietary supplements are widely available in supermarkets and drug stores across the nation without a prescription, so it's no surprise that nearly half of all Americans take them.

But they do carry risks, including potentially adverse interactions with prescription drugs, and some people may even use them in place of conventional medications. So it's important that primary care physicians communicate the pros and cons of supplements with their patients. In fact, both the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health suggest that patients consult with their doctors before starting to take them.

A new UCLA-led study currently available in the journal Patient Education and Counseling examined the content of doctorpatient conversations about dietary supplements and found that, overall, physicians are not particularly good at conveying important information concerning them.

"This is the first study to look at the actual content of conversations about dietary supplements in a primary care setting," said Dr. Derjung Tarn, an assistant professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study's primary investigator. "The bottom line was that discussions about meaningful topics such as risks, effectiveness and costs that might inform patient decisions about taking dietary supplements were sparse."

The researchers analyzed transcripts of audio recordings from office visits by 1,477 patients to 102 primary care providers. The data were collected in three separate studies conducted between 1998 and 2010. Of those visits, 357 included patientphysician discussions of 738 dietary supplements. The team found that five major topics were discussed with regard to the supplements: the reason for taking the supplements, how to take them, their potential risks, their effectiveness, and their cost or affordability.

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Contact: Enrique Rivero
erivero@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2273
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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