Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month

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July is Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. A common misconception with herbal supplements is that because they are “all-natural” it is safe to take. This is especially true for people who may be taking prescription medications. The main purpose of the public health and awareness campaign is to inform the public that herbal supplements can cause potentially dangerous drug interactions when taken with certain medications.

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?1

While herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA as drugs or as foods, they do fall under a category called dietary supplements. It is important to note that the level of regulation and criteria for dietary supplements is not as stringent as it is for food and drug products. The dietary supplement regulations ensure that herbal supplements meet certain quality standards and that the FDA can intervene to remove dangerous products from the market. However, these products can pose unexpected risks because many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body. For example, taking a combination of herbal supplements or using supplements together with prescribed medications could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results.

How Herbs Can Interact with Medicines?2

Unfortunately, for many medicines and supplements there’s currently little information on possible interactions, and more research is needed. Some supplements can decrease the effects of medicines, while others can increase the effects, including unwanted side effects, of medicines. Here are a few examples of well-known drug interactions:

  • St. John’s Wort: St. John’s wort interacts with a large number of medications, including antidepressants, allergy drugs, birth control, and warfarin. In most cases, St. John’s wort decreases the effectiveness of the medication; in other cases, however, St. John’s wort may increase the effects of a medication.3
  • Garlic Extract: Concentrated garlic extracts can thin the blood in a manner similar to aspirin, which may be a problem during or after surgery.
  • Green Tea Supplements: Concentrated green tea supplements can interact with pseudoephedrine (a decongestant).

Herbal Supplement Safety Tips

  • If you’re currently taking prescription medications and thinking about starting an herbal supplement, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist first about possible drug interactions.
  • Follow supplement instructions
  • Stick to brands that have been tested by independent sources
  • Keep track of any alerts or advisories. The FDA will notify the public of any supplements that have been reported to cause adverse effects or contain undeclared ingredients.

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities!

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/herbal-supplements/art-20046714
  2. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/herb-drug
  3. https://www.stlukes-stl.com/health-content/medicine/33/000931.htm

National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month

June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to raise awareness, address the stigma and build a stronger community of advocates. Migraine disease is one of the 20 most disabling medical illnesses in the world and the 12th most disabling disorder in the United States. More than 90% of migraine suffers can’t function normally during an attack.1

Migraine 101

Migraine is a genetic neurological disease, characterized by episodes often called Migraine attacks. They are quite different from regular headaches which are non-migrainous. Migraine sufferers may have moderate or severe pain and usually can’t participate in normal activities because of the pain. Many people experience migraines lasting for at least four hours or may last for days. The diagnosis usually happens if people have a combination of symptoms and doctors have ruled out other disorders.2

Build a Support Network

Migraine is a disabling disease that no one should have to go through alone. It’s essential to build a support network of understanding people who can not only check in on you during an attack but also empathize with your experience. While there are a multitude of online support groups, talk with your friends and family about your experience. They are an invaluable resource to help you get through migraine attacks.3

Tria Health and Migraines

Tria Health’s Pharmacy Advocate Program offers one-on-one, private consultations with a Tria Health Pharmacist. Your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor(s) to ensure you’re getting the intended outcomes from your medications. Over the years, Tria Health has continued to expand our services to include a multitude of chronic conditions, including migraines.

Have any questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/yes-migraine-is-a-disability/
  2. https://migraine.com/migraine-basics/
  3. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/why-you-need-migraine-support-network/

World No Tobacco Day – May 31st

Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.1 This year’s focus for World No Tobacco Day is “Tobacco and Lung Health”. The campaign will increase awareness on the negative impact that tobacco has on people’s lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease and the fundamental role lungs play for the health and well-being of all people.

How Tobacco Affects People’s Lung Health

There are multiple ways in which tobacco can impact an individual’s lung health, including:

  • Lung Cancer: Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Many are poisons. At least 70 are known to cause cancer in people or animals.2
  • Chronic Respiratory Disease: Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition where the build-up of pus-filled mucus in the lungs results in a painful cough and agonising breathing difficulties.1
  • Life-Course: If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke when you’re pregnant, your baby is exposed to harmful chemicals too. This may lead to many serious health problems, including: Miscarriage, premature birth (born not fully developed), lower birth weight than expected (possibly meaning a less healthy baby), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and learning problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).3
  • Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) damages the lungs and reduces lung function, which is further exacerbated by tobacco smoking. About one quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, placing them at risk of developing the active disease.1

What Changes Can Be Made?

The WHO encourages governments worldwide to protect people from the harms of tobacco. Their recommendations include:

  • The creation of smoke-free public places, workplaces, and public transportation
  • Help for people who choose to quit tobacco, such as toll-free quit lines
  • Implementation of plain packaging and/or prominent and graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging
  • Launching effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that educate the public about the harms of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure
  • Enforcement of comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship
  • Increased taxes on tobacco products to make them less affordable

Do e-cigarettes or vapes have tobacco?

They are not burned tobacco products, but they do pose health risks. Know the risks.

Tria Health and Tobacco Cessation

For employers that offer Tria Health’s Tobacco Cessation Program, Tria provides free confidential counseling with a clinical pharmacist. If you ready to quit smoking, Tria Health’s pharmacist will assist you in managing your medications and finding a treatment plan that works for you.

Have any questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/05/31/default-calendar/world-no-tobacco-day
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
  3. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/tobacco/Pages/Dangers-of-Secondhand-Smoke.aspx

Do Risk Reduction Programs Work?

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For self-insured employers, heart disease and diabetes are considered significant hindrances in the effort to improve employee health while reducing overall healthcare costs. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and about 9.4% of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. In order to control cost and help employees, employers typically look to disease state management programs. While many of these programs seem beneficial, the durability and long-term effects have limited evaluation.

What is a disease management program?

Disease management programs (DMPs) are structured treatment plans that aim to help people better manage their chronic disease and to maintain and improve quality of life. DMPs are also run with the general goal of improving medical treatment in the long term. Disease management programs also aim to improve cooperation between the various specialists and institutions that provide care for a patient, such as family and specialist doctors, hospitals and rehabilitation centers.1

What are the long-term outcomes of a DMP?2

A recent study published in the NCBI had the main objective of assessing the 5-year health, economic, and quality-of-life patient outcomes of an employer-sponsored disease state management program. The program included one-on-one appointments with a pharmacist that included medication therapy management, implementation and adherence to 7 personalized lifestyle medicine programs (ie, physical activity, healthy eating, stress management, restorative sleep, moderate alcohol consumption, tobacco abstinence/cessation, and weight control), and chronic disease care coordination practices.

The results of the study identified:

  • Decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels: 96.71 mg/dL vs 84.83 mg/dL, respectively
  • Increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels: 39.32 mg/dL vs 46.12 mg/dL
  • Decreased systolic blood pressure: 132.04 mm Hg vs 123.63 mm Hg
  • Average exercise time increased: 50 minutes weekly vs 156.04 minutes weekly
  • The combined healthcare and productivity return on investment for the program at 5 years was $9.64 for every $1 invested.

What is the difference between a Disease Management program and the Chronic Condition Management Program offered by Tria Health?

Tria Health started as a disease management program and has its foundation there, but many disease management programs are focused one particular disease state versus the program offered by Tria Health which is patient-centered. Most patients have more than one chronic condition, so taking a ‘patient-centered’ approach improves overall care and costs.

Interested in improving your employee’s health?

Tria Health offers Chronic Condition Management through our Pharmacy Advocate Program. Clinical Pharmacists provide one-on-one telephonic counseling for members and are their personal advocate to help them navigate through the health care system. Through reviewing a member’s medications and lifestyle, including their sleep habits, Tria Pharmacists can make recommendations that will help control their chronic conditions and help them feel better!

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279412/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6207306/

Reduce Adverse Drug Reactions

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Are you currently taking a prescription medication? Per the government’s National Health Survey, about 20 percent of adults are taking three or more drugs. While medications can turn once fatal diseases into manageable, chronic conditions, those taking five or more medications were nearly twice as likely to seek medical care than those taking one or two meds.1 It’s important to understand what medications you’re taking, and the steps you need to follow to reduce your risk of adverse drug reactions.

How do Adverse Drug Reactions Happen?1

There are three primary causes of dangerous prescription drug use:

  1. Hyper-specialized doctors: Many patients with chronic conditions have multiple physicians. While this can benefit the patient by providing them with specialized resources, the lack of communication between health care providers can sometimes lead to the prescribing of drugs that interact negatively.
  2. Prescription cascades: The risk of side effects comes with every medication. Prescription cascades occur when new medications are prescribed in an effort to treat the sides effects of other medications.
  3. Poor research: Unfortunately for older adults, drug trials are often focused on young adults. This can lead to a lack of information regarding the negative effects of individual drugs or interactions among multiple drugs.

Simple Steps to Avoid Adverse Drug Reactions

  • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about any new medications. Make sure they know about any vitamins and supplements you are currently taking.
  • Follow all the dosing instructions listed on each of your medications.
  • Keep an updated medication list on hand for any of your medical appointments.
  • You can also use AARP’s online drug interaction checker.

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible adverse drug reactions or savings opportunities!

Source:

  1. https://lowninstitute.org/medication-overload-how-the-drive-to-prescribe-is-harming-older-americans/