The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is convening a conference this week to assess the dangers of combining dietary supplements with prescription blood-thinning medications - and which may lead to scientific research on the subject.
Four million Americans currently use prescribed anti-thrombotic (anti-coagulant or anti-platelet) therapies to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A new generation of agents is being introduced and use of dietary supplements is proliferating as the wider population becomes more conscious of health and wellness issues.
"With up to 52 percent of the US population reporting dietary supplement use, it is important that we fully understand how these substances can affect widely-used drugs, such as warfarin and aspirin," said NHLBI acting director Barbara Alving.
Few examinations have looked at the effects of dietary supplements when taken with blood-thinning drugs, and so the conference - to be held on 13-14 January at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland - will be an opportunity for NIH and FDA experts to discuss current knowledge and strategies with academics, patient advocacies and industry representatives.
"We plan to obtain a variety of perspectives on this issue so that we have a better understanding of managing patients' drug regimens," said Ahmed Hasan, medical officer with NHLBI's division of blood diseases and resources.
"We are trying to increase awareness of both dietary supplements and anti-thrombonic therapies," he told NutraIngredients-USA.
"The message to patients is that if you are taking a dietary supplement that has an active role, let the physician know. Similarly, the physician should actively ask whether the patient is taking any food supplements."
If a need for further research on the subject is identified and approved by the NHLBI's institutional body, this will be sourced and funded by the organization. The stringent assessment process for applications usually takes between six and 12 months.
Around 180 dietary supplements - including herbal remedies, vitamins, minerals, botanical products, fibers, amino acids, proteins, organ tissues and metabolites for digestion - have the potential to interact with common blood-thinner warfarin.
More than 120 may interact with anti-platelet agents such as aspirin, and clopidogrel, ticlopidine, and dipyridamole.