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NCCIH Research Blog

New Center To Provide Leadership on Natural Product-Drug Interactions

September 14, 2015

D. Craig Hopp, Ph.D.

D. Craig Hopp, Ph.D.

Deputy Director

Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

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We at NCCIH are excited to announce our grant for a new Center of Excellence for Natural Product Drug Interaction Research, a funding opportunity announcement about which I blogged in 2014. The award totals approximately $10 million over a period of 5 years.

The study of natural product-drug interactions is an important priority area for NCCIH in light of the widespread availability and use of these products by the public. Well-studied examples include St. John’s wort and grapefruit juice, which can interact with many medications and interfere with their intended effects. Viewed as a whole, these kinds of interactions can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening.

So far, the data in the field has been highly variable in quality and/or relatively sparse. For example, little is known about the pharmacokinetics of the individual product constituents responsible for these interactions. This situation has led to sometimes-conflicting reports and to confusion on the part of health care providers, patients, and researchers regarding the exact magnitude of this problem.

The new Center will provide leadership by developing a roadmap for the study of these interactions. Its goals include:

  • Conducting a series of well-designed preclinical and clinical studies on four to six priority natural products that potentially have risks for clinically relevant interactions with drugs.
  • Creating an open-access repository for the data and methodology resources developed under the grant.
  • Developing and sharing best practices recommended for the conduct of natural product-drug interaction studies, based on experience with Center projects and their results.

A multidisciplinary team of leading scientists in the fields of pharmacology, natural products chemistry, bioinformatics, drug interactions, and health communications will lead the Center. Danny Shen, Ph.D., professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Washington, and Mary Paine, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Pharmacy at Washington State University, are the co-principal investigators, with collaborators to include scientists at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

We look forward to this new Center contributing to and accelerating the path of research on this important public health problem. On the clinical side, it’s always good to remember that health care providers should ask about, and patients should discuss, all the dietary supplements and drugs that a patient is taking.

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