Special Edition: Multivitamins

Vitamin startup focuses on possible drug interactions as differentiator

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Vitamin startup focuses on possible drug interactions as differentiator
While many personalized nutrition companies offer multivitamins as a core product, startup Vitamin Packs said its algorithm incorporating detailed drug-supplement interactions is a differentiator.

The Seattle, WA-based company offers personalized vitamin and supplement regimens based on detailed customer questionnaires.  In addition to multivitamins, the company offers more than 70 other supplements and recently added a prenatal multivitamin.

But company cofounder Tamara Bernadot, who is senior vice president of nutritional support, said that the drug interaction issue is one that many other purveyors of multivitamins and other supplements may overlook.

“Part of our questionnaire includes asking you about your medication. We want to double and triple check to make sure you are not taking something that could harm you by interfering with your medication,”​ Bernadot told NutraIngredients-USA.

“I would think that 90% of the people who go into the health food store aren’t necessarily telling the clerks what medication they might be taking. We want to make sure there are no contraindications,” ​she said.

Almost 40% ignorant of interaction issue

Vitamin Packs recently commissioned a consumer survey conducted by Wakefield Research.  In February 2018 the firm surveyed 500 US adults 18 and older who were taking a supplement along with a prescription medication.  The key findings:

  • Nearly two in five (38%) of survey participants (those already taking vitamins alongside prescription meds) do not know vitamins and supplements can impact the effectiveness of medications
  • 45% of respondents assume they don't need to tell their doctor if they start taking a new vitamin or supplement with 61% of millennials agreeing
  • Aside from general wellness, respondents reported taking dietary supplements for: Energy (51%); Heart health (40%); Immunity (38%); Digestive health (37%;) Hair or skin health (35%); Sleep (28%)
  • 55% of respondents use a pill box, such as a day strip pill box to keep track of the amount of vitamins and medications they need to take, while another 28% don't have a method to keep track of their daily amounts
  • Participants reported taking five or more different types of pills (51%) with them when they travel.

Vitamin Packs claims to be the only personalized subscription box service that cross-references 650 prescription medications before curating a combination of nutritional supplements for its subscribers.

"Nutrient deficiencies and diagnosed health conditions often require the use of vitamins and prescription medications, but they can interact. It is critical that users understand potential interactions,"​ said Dr. Michael Roizen, MD, who is the chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic and Vitamin Packs medical advisory board chair. "We know the interaction can occur by direct effect or by changing the metabolism of a drug. Large databases — like electronic medical records and Vitamin Packs' proprietary database — are key to helping users and health professionals scan for potential interactions. I always recommend that anyone who is looking to add a supplement to their diet should talk with their doctor or a local pharmacist first.”

When to add, when to subtract

Vitamin Packs co founder Jason Brown said the algorithm the company uses for its nutritional recommendations is built up with the input of a cadre of experts including physicians in clinical practice, nutritionists and others. The result is a platform that can identify both when some ingredients should be shied away from, and when additional supplementation might be called for, he said.

“A lot of people might be on prescription medications where your body could be leaching certain nutrients,” Brown said. “Our platform is as close to artificial intelligence as you can get. We incorporate more than 6 trillion data points where all these things intersect.”

Bernadot said that the algorithm incorporates information from more that 10,000 peer reviewed articles and the experience of more than 100,000 patient visits. The platform also incorporates a massive drug interaction database, she said.

“Our scientific advisory board reviews everything we do,” ​she said.

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