A spokesperson for Southern Health-Sante Sud is urging any individual taking the Umary supplement to speak with their physician or pharmacist. 

SteinbachOnline.com broke the story earlier this month of a woman from Steinbach who was hospitalized after taking the supplement. Carla Anne Ferguson felt immediate relief from her arthritis, only to learn that each capsule contained three times the recommended maximum daily dose of diclofenac, even though it was never listed on the label. Ferguson experienced heart attack symptoms from the diclofenac, which Pharmacist Scott Penner says is a very potent, anti-inflammatory drug.

Rizwan Ahmed is Director of Pharmacy for Southern Health-Sante Sud. Ahmed admits that prior to the Umary supplement making headlines over the last week, he had never heard of this product. Ahmed explains that Umary is a foreign-label product that is not available in Canada. He notes there are different legislation and legal requirements for each country, but because Umary is a foreign supplement, it is not as black and white. 

"(The label) does not identify some of the medication," says Ahmed. "But I cannot say that it is illegal or legal because I don't know the requirement of that country where this product is produced."

Even though the owner of Pharmasave in Steinbach says he has been asked constantly since October about the Umary supplement, Ahmed says he thinks there is probably still only a very small number of people using this medication. However, for those who are taking it, Ahmed says he strongly encourages them to speak to a physician or pharmacist. And, for anyone who is experiencing side effects from this supplement, he suggests they communicate with Health Canada. 

"They will keep an eye on what are the medications or supplements causing the side effects," he says. "They have very strong data."

He notes Health Canada can then share this information with its counterparts across North America and Europe. 

"We highly suggest anybody who gets any adverse reaction with medication, there is a form available on Health Canada, fill it, communicate, share, so others can also learn from unfortunate examples from one person," he adds. 

Meanwhile, Ahmed says it is always very important to give a complete history of medical information to your physician or pharmacist. He notes if you can provide some form of medical documentation that lists what you are currently using and how you are using it, that removes the guesswork. For example, he says sometimes patients will come to the emergency department and only know that they are taking white pills.

"I can give you thousands of names of white pills," says Ahmed. 

Ahmed says not only is it important to have complete documentation of your medical information, but also any supplements, including herbal medication. 

"The common misconception, (is that) herbal medication does not cause any interaction, that's not the case," he says. "Herbal medication can also cause many complications and sometimes they are the root cause of unfortunate circumstances."

And finally, Ahmed recommends that when purchasing a supplement, make sure it has a Natural Product Number (NPN), which is a number through Health Canada. He notes if you have to purchase a foreign-label product, bring it to a physician or pharmacist who might be able to let you know if there is something similar available in Canada. He notes purchasing supplements online from another country might be cheaper, but you may pay a higher price down the road.