Can food supplements replace medicines? Pharmacist TikTok creator explains difference

March 13, 2023 - 5:20 PM
Arshie Larga_supplement_gamot
Screengrab of pharmacist Arshie Larga in this video uploaded on his Twitter account on March 8, 2023 (Arshiethromycin/Twitter)

A pharmacist and content creator reminded the public that food supplements cannot serve as an alternative or substitute to medicines.

In a tweet on March 8, pharmacist Arshie Larga shared a video where he acknowledged some testimonials of supplement advertisements carrying claims in relation to one’s health.

He cited some examples such as supplements claiming they can lower one’s blood pressure or those alleging they can be consumed by diabetics or those with cancer, among others.

“Bilang consumers, may karapatan naman po kayo na mamili ng mga kung anong mga food supplements ang gusto niyong inumin,” Arshie said in the video.

“Gayun pa man, bilang isang pharmacist, may paalala lamang po ako sa inyo. Let me explain. Tandaan lamang po natin na ang mga food supplements or dietary supplements po ay hindi mga gamot,” he added.

The pharmacist said that food and dietary supplements are additional sources of vitamins and minerals that contain nutrients that may not be available in our food.

“Samantalang kapag sinabi po nating gamot or drug, ginagamit naman po ito sa diagnosis bilang lunas o kaya’y gamot naman sa isang sakit, at ginagamit rin ito bilang prevention o para hindi magkasakit ang isang tao,” Arshie continued.

He stressed that since food supplements are not medicines, they cannot be used or treated as medicines to cure any type of illness or medical condition.

“Kaya po ‘pag may mga food supplements or dietary supplements na nagsasabi na ang gamot nila ay gamot sa high blood, gamot sa diabetes, gamot sa cancer at tsaka saka kung anu-ano pang sakit, mag-isip-isip po muna tayo at huwag tayo basta-basta magpapadala sa mga pangako’y ito’y gamot sa iba’t ibang uri ng sakit,” Arshie said.

The content creator also reminded Filipinos that supplements bear the label: “No approved therapeutic claims.”

“Kung sa Tagalog, ‘Ang gamot na ito ay hindi gamot at hindi dapat gamiting gamot sa mga uri ng sakit,'” the pharmacist added.

Arshie also said that food supplements could not be considered substitutes for maintenance medicines or prescriptions used to treat chronic or long-term medical conditions.

“Huwag po natin basta-basta ititigil ang pag-inom natin ng Losartan o kaya naman ay Medformin at i-asa na lang natin sa mga food supplement ang pagbaba ng ating blood pressure at tsaka blood sugar. Huwag naman ganoon, ha?” he continued.

The pharmacist’s video has earned over 54,200 views and more than 2,200 likes on Twitter so far.

A copy of the video was also uploaded as a reel on his Facebook page.

Arshie’s reminder was well-received by Twitter users who reiterated the advice in their own posts.

“Red flag ‘pag sinabi na gamot ‘yung supplement sa sakit,” an aspiring pharmacist wrote in a quote tweet.

“Nawa’y maging ad to sa TV or radio for public health info,” another Twitter user commented.

“Yay, thank you!! Was waiting for this kasi si Arshie lang pinaniniwala’an ni mama,” a different Pinoy exclaimed.

In the Philippines, food and dietary supplements should always have disclaimers when being advertised in mass media.

The Food and Drug Administration Philippines said that owners, manufacturers, distributors, importers, exporters, advertisers, and/or their agents are mandated to strictly carry this message:

“Mahalagang paalala: Ang (name of product) ay hindi gamot at hindi dapat gamiting panggamot sa anumang uri ng sakit.” 

According to a pharmacy, supplements are intended to supplement a dietary need in the form of vitamins and minerals. It can enhance or improve one’s diet to reinforce the nutrient supply in one’s body.

They are not considered medicines since they cannot cure any illness or disease.

Medications, on the other hand, are intended to target a particular body part that is in pain or a particular illness. Its goal is to provide a cure, if not to maintain and improve the current condition of one’s body.

These also carry a doctor’s prescription before they can be dispensed in pharmacies.