A study has found that it is ineffective and dangerous to take herbal and dietary supplements along with blood thinning drug Warfarin.

This study was carried out by a clinical pharmacist from Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Jennifer Strohecker will present the results at Chicago meeting of American Heart Association scientists on Monday, 23rd November 2010.

Strohecker says his findings reveal a serious physician-patient communication gap. Most survey patients have confirmed that they did not consult their physician before taking a supplement. Rather they based their decision on online sources and information from friends. The survey finds that the lack of communication has compromised the safety of Warfarin patients and increased their risk of internal bleeding and stroke. A thin ray of hope for the future comes from the fact that 92% of the patients are willing to confide in their doctor if questioned.

The scientists suggest that improving patient-physician disclosure will bring out the use of supplements if any. Improving education and attaching warning labels to supplements can warn patients of potential hazardous drug-supplement interactions.

100 Warfarin patients participated in this study. Two-thirds of patients used either herbal/dietary supplements or both. 47 patients were inadvertently taking a high-risk drug and herbal supplement combination with the anti-clotting medication (Warfarin). Both groups of patients were not aware of the risks as use of supplements was recorded by health care providers in only one-third of the group.

The general dietary supplements recorded in this study are vitamins, glucosamine and chondroitin, fish oil and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Further, unexplained bleeding was common to the supplement users. Their need for blood transfusions increased. Frequent drug interactions were common and Warfarin patients on supplements either skipped or used double doses of the drug. Scientists suggest that both drugs and supplements compete for processing in the liver leading to an increase in stroke risk and risk of unwanted bleeding.

“We’re not saying dietary supplements are bad. We’re saying they should be considered medications, And it’s critical that health providers know what medications their patients are taking,” Dr John Day, fellow researcher said.