The effort is spearheaded by Lise Alschuler, ND, who bases her practice in Phoenix, AZ and is supported by Integrative Therapeutics, a Green Bay, WI-based manufacturer of practitioner channel dietary supplements. Access to the site, which is called TAPIntegrative (standing for Teach, Advocate, Practice) is restricted to qualified health care professionals.
The key to the site, Alschuler said, is that the information provided goes through a peer review process before being shared with the wider community. After all, even the most skilled and open minded practitioner might have his or her own subtle prejudices, she said.
“Right now, for example, our featured focus is autism and we have an expert who deals with autism in her practice. There is a Q&A with her and links to practical insights. All of that information she provided was peer reviewed before going up on the site,” Alschuler told NutraIngredients-USA.
Alschuler said the model provided a peer network that can accelerate the sharing of information and help all participating practitioners use supplements more effectively. The peer review process helps deal with the Achilles heel of that model.
“We want to know what clinician say works in their practices. The danger of clinicians learning from each other is the a clinician could pass a myth along,” she said.
The website is organized to be searchable. The information on a given topic, such as autism, is presented in multiple formats including video discussions, audio abstracts, blogs, case discussions, graphic overviews, research reviews, and patient education tools. The website is designed so that the practitioner can quickly take away key insights from a clinical topic or can delve deeply into the topic. Collaboration between members also takes place by exchanging best practices in the member forum, or by directly asking the subject experts. TAP offers members a number of unique benefits including access to a drug-nutrient interaction database and, in collaboration with institutional member, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, a digital article retrieval service.
While the site is sponsored by a brand holder, Alschuler said the information provided is based on ingredients, not brands.
“I have to give [Integrative Therapeutics] credit; they could have pushed for brand awareness but they didn’t. The site is intended to be brand agnostic. All of our information is based on the action of ingredient. The only time we will mention a brand is if we are referencing a study which was done on a specific branded supplement,” Alschuler said.
Alschuler said that the peer review process includes vetting the source material to which practitioners might refer. The goal is to have the best, most thoroughly vetted information available.
“I like to say that the information is evidence-informed, not so much evidence-based. Using the term ‘evidence-based’ would imply for me that you had done a specific clinical trial to answer that question,” she said.
But while the site is brand agnostic, it will get very specific on the effect of ingredients. Practitioners, for example, will weigh in with what concentrations of ingredients and what kind of formulations have worked in their practices. A clinician might give insights to what concentrations of EPA or DHA in a omega-3 product proved most effective in helping patients with certain conditions, for example.
As the online community grows, Alschuler foresees it becoming a valuable research tool in its own right. Integrative practitioners form the most knowledgeable, experienced community of supplement users, in her view. And their collective experience could be used as a powerful demonstration of the efficaciousness and safety of dietary supplements, and as the community grows, so too will the statistical power of the information they gather in their daily work.
“These people are at the leading edge of the appropriate use of dietary supplements. As we build our membership we will have a pool of members and from them we will have the ability to generate data. For example we could say that we have X number of clinicians who have been using ingredient Y for twenty years or more with zero adverse events. That could be very compelling,” she said.