Probiotic use in at-risk populations

J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2016 Nov-Dec;56(6):680-686. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2016.07.001.


Objective: To inform health care providers about quality standards for manufacture of probiotic products being recommended for at-risk patient populations.

Summary: Probiotics are used in a variety of clinical settings, sometimes in at-risk populations for therapeutic endpoints. Although probiotics might not be approved as drugs, they are sometimes used for the prevention or treatment of disease. In the United States, and many regions of the world, probiotic products are marketed as dietary supplements (not drugs) and are therefore subject to different manufacturing and quality control standards than approved drugs are. Health care providers need to be assured that probiotic products used in at-risk populations are safe for this use. Pharmacists should require certificates of analysis, which document quality standards, from manufacturers of products stocked in hospital formularies or other pharmacies dispensing to at-risk people. Although responsible manufacturers use stringent quality standards on their processes and finished products, using a third party to verify compliance with manufacturing and accuracy of product labeling adds assurance to end users that the product is of high quality.

Conclusion: It is in patients' best interest to use probiotics in the prevention and treatment of conditions when the evidence is convincing. To protect high-risk patients, probiotic products should meet stringent microbiological standards. Product testing results should be available for review before recommending probiotic products to at-risk individuals. For products used in at-risk populations, manufacturers should provide this information or participate in a third-party verification program that certifies compliance.

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements / standards*
  • Food Industry / standards*
  • Food Labeling / standards
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists / organization & administration
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Probiotics / standards
  • Professional Role
  • Quality Control*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States