IMgateway drug interaction checker module now integrated in AusDI
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IMgateway drug interaction checker module now integrated in AusDI

The rise in consumer and patient demand for complementary medicine, natural medicines and herbal supplements, means the pressure is on doctors and pharmacists to be more vigilant when checking for herb-drug interactions.

In this article, we take a look at some of the common industry challenges facing herb-drug safety and interactions, and how tools and resources can help mitigate risk and minimise patient harm.

What herbal remedies are your patients really taking?

According to a recent article in the Prescriber Journal, The hidden problem of herb‐drug interactions potentially harmful interactions between herbs and prescription medicines are common, yet healthcare professionals often do not ask about herbal remedies when prescribing and patients do not voluntarily admit to taking them.

In fact, extensive international studies have shown how most clinicians are unaware of their patients’ use of herbal medicine. All medicinal agents have potentially unexpected effects including toxicity and interactions, and herbs are no different, the report, Herbal medicines: adverse effects and drug-herb interactions, revealed:

“Drug-herb interactions are based on the same pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic principles as drug-drug interactions. Herbal medicines do not need to be avoided, the only fundamental issue is that they should be considered as medicine and the adverse effects and potential interactions considered. Thus pharmacists and doctors should be better informed to minimise patient harm.”

Meanwhile, surveys conducted by the Australian National Prescribing Service in 2012, revealed that almost half the participants were using complementary medicines; 87% of whom were also using conventional medicines. *1

To complicate matters, 2008 data revealed Australians use family and friends, the Internet and health food shop workers as common sources of information for complementary medicines.2 Unfortunately, these sources often vary in terms of their quality, reliability and accuracy.

*1.Morgan TK, Williamson M, Pirotta M, Stewart K,Myers SP & Barnes J. A national census of medicines use: a 24-hour snapshot of Australians aged 50 years and older, MJA 2012; 196 (1): 50–53).

Role of health professionals in the integration of complementary and conventional medicines

Health professionals are now expected to be familiar with common and clinically significant complementary medicine interactions or at least know where to look them up. According to a recent report from NPS Medicine Wise, knowing the dynamic and kinetic interactions associated with commonly used complementary medicines helps to identify the risk of drug interactions.

It stressed that despite information not being readily available from manufacturers of complementary medicines, there is a growing body of evidence now available by way of case reports, independent research and web-based resources. Collectively, these data make interactions with complementary medicines largely predictable and therefore preventable.

Introducing AusDI and IMgateway’s drug interaction checking module

In order to ensure more accurate prescribing for patients, and better complementary medicine interaction safety, Australia’s largest medicines information database, AusDI, from MedicalDirector, now integrates with IMgateway’s drug-herb interaction checking module.

IMgateway, first launched by UnityHealth to Australian practitioners over two decades ago, contains information on various conditions, herbs, supplements and drugs, retrieved from over 700 medical and complementary medicine journals.

The first of its kind in Australia, the interactions database was developed in partnership with the University of Sydney, School of Pharmacy. Headed by Professor Andrew McLachlan and supported by Professor Basil Roufogalis, it delivers over 1,000 interactions involving various herbs, supplements, foods and drugs.

Key features and benefits:

  • Information from over 700 medical and complementary medicine journals, summarised into clear, concise monographs (documents).
  • Information on numerous conditions, supplements, drugs and nutrient depletions.
  • 1,000 supplement-drug, herb-drug and food-drug interaction reports, brought to you in partnership with the University of Sydney, School of Pharmacy.
  • Search by ingredient name.
  • Since its inception, IMgateway has remained commercially unbiased, and its editorial board has received no financial support from any pharmaceutical or manufacturing companies.

Importantly, using this module helps to support the Pharmacy Board of Australia requirements for mandatory reference sources: “an evidence-based reference work on complementary and alternative medicines.

IMgateway is integrated via an API into AusDI and can be accessed via a dedicated tab, conveniently located in the side bar menu of the AusDI application.

IMgateway is available to purchase as an additional module to all new and existing AusDI customers. To find out more please visit www.ausdi.com.au.