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Turmeric (Curcumin)

 

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • 1-(3-Cyclopentylpropyl)-2,4-dimethylbenzene, 1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione, 1,8-cineole, 2-(2'-methyl-1'-propenyl)-4,6-dimethyl-7-hydroxyquinoline, 2,5-dihydroxybisabola-3,10-diene, 4''-(4'''-hydroxyphenyl)-2''-oxo-3''-butenyl-3-(4'-hydroxyphenyl-3'-methoxy)-propenoate, 4''-(4'''-hydroxyphenyl-3'''-methoxy)-2''-oxo-3''-butenyl-3-(4'-hydroxyphenyl)-propenoate, 4,5-dihydroxybisabola-2,10-diene, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4-formylphenyl)-2-hepten-4-one, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2-hepten-4-one, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4-hydroxyphenyl-3-methyl)-2-hepten-4-one, alantone, alpha-curcumene, alpha-turmerone, alpha-zingiberene, Amomum curcuma, anlatone (constituent), ar-curcumene, ar-tumerone, ar-turmerone, atlantone, BCM-95® (Biocurcumax™) , beta-bisabolene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-curcumene, beta-sesquiphellandrene, beta-turmerin, beta-turmerone, bisacurone, bisacurone A, bisacurone B, bisacurone C, bisdemethoxycurcumin, calebin, C.I. 75300, C.I. Natural Yellow 3, CUR, Curcuma, Curcuma aromatica, Curcuma aromatica Salisbury, Curcuma domestica, Curcuma domestica Valeton, curcuma long oil, Curcuma longa, Curcuma longa Linn., Curcuma longa oils, Curcuma longa rhizoma, curcuma oil, curcumin, curcuminoids, curlone, dehydrozingerone, demethoxycurcumin, diaryl heptanoids, diferuloylmethane, E 100, e zhu, Gelbwurzel (German), germacrene, gurkemeje (Danish), haidr, halad (Marathi), haldar (Gujarati), haldi (Dogri, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Urdu), halud (Bengali), haridra (Sanskrit), HSDB 4334, Indian saffron, Indian yellow root, jiang huang (Mandarin Chinese), jianghuang, kacha haldi, kumkum, kunir (Indonesian), kunyit (Indonesian), Kurkumawurzelstock (German), kurkumin, kyoo (Japanese), merita earth, NMXCC95™, Number Ten (NT), oil of turmeric, olena, radix Zedoaria longa, resveratrol, rhizome de curcuma (French), safran des Indes (French), sesquiterpenoids, shati, souchet, tumeric, tumerone, turmeric oil, turmeric root, turmeric yellow, turmerone, turmeronol A, ukon (Japanese), ukonan A, ukonan B, ukonan C, ukonan D, yellow ginger, yellow root, yellowroot, yo-kin, yujin, zedoary, zerumbone, zingerone, Zingiberaceae (family), zingiberene, zingiberone, Zitterwurzel (German), zlut prirodni 3.
  • Combination product examples: Chinese herbal extract Number Ten is a dietary herbal formulation prepared from rhubarb, ginger, astragalus, red sage, and turmeric. Smoke Shield is a proprietary formulation containing extract of turmeric (Curcuma longa), extracts of green tea, and other herbs. Protandim is an antioxidant supplement that consists of ashwagandha, bacopa extract, green tea extract, silymarin, and curcumin. Tiao ZhiAn mixture contains the mixed volatile oils of Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort., Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, and Curcuma longa L. Ilogen-Excel is composed of eight medicinal plants (Curcuma longa, Strychnos potatorum, Salacia oblonga, Tinospora cordifolia, Vetivelia zizanioides, Coscinium fenestratum, Andrographis paniculata, and Mimosa pudica). Purnark is a mixture of extracts of turmeric, betel leaf, and catechu. JCICM-6 contains turmeric, as well as Sinomenium acutum, Aconitum carmichaeli Debx., Paeonia lactiflora Pall., and Paeonia suffruticosa Andr .

Background

  • Turmeric is a spice, commonly used in Asian food, derived from the root of the turmeric (Curcuma longa) plant. Curcumin is the yellow-colored primary active part that is derived from turmeric and is commonly used to color foods and cosmetics.
  • The root of turmeric has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat stomach and intestine upset, arthritic pain, and "low energy." Although not well studied in humans, turmeric and curcumin have shown anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, nerve-protective, insecticidal, and anticancer properties. Early human evidence suggests possible efficacy for dyspepsia (heartburn), Helicobacter pylori infection, pain relief, leukoplakia (patches in the mouth), osteoarthritis, and high cholesterol.
  • Treatment with curcumin is difficult due to its poor solubility in water; however, other forms have been made to increase its solubility, but high quality evidence in humans is lacking.

Evidence

 

Uses based on scientific evidence 

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.

Grade* 

Alzheimer's disease 

Curcumin has been reviewed for its use in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease; however, strong studies are lacking. Early research suggests that curcumin increases blood levels of vitamin E but has a lack of effect on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores in patients with Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Antioxidant 

Early research suggests that turmeric may have antioxidant effects. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Blood clot prevention 

Early research suggests that turmeric may prevent the formation of blood clots. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Cancer 

Several early studies have reported the anticancer (colon, skin, breast) properties of curcumin. Many mechanisms have been considered, including antioxidant activity, prevention of new blood vessel growth, and direct effects on cancer cells. Currently it remains unclear if turmeric or curcumin has a role in preventing or treating human cancers, and further studies are needed in this area.

C 

Crohn's disease 

Curcuma longa has been studied for use in Crohn's disease. In a review, people have reported an improvement in symptoms of Crohn's disease; however, strong evidence is lacking to make a firm conclusion. Further research is needed.

C 

Dental conditions 

Early studies have indicated that curcumin may have an effect against bacteria in the mouth. Clinical research shows that turmeric may be as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash; however, further studies are needed in this area.

C 

Diabetes 

In animal research, curcumin or turmeric had a positive effect on glucose and HbA1c levels, elevated plasma insulin, and improved cholesterol and antioxidant status. In clinical research, curcumin has been shown to decrease the progression of prediabetics and improve microangiopathy (blood vessel disease). Further study is needed in this area.

C 

Eczema 

According to early research using a combination herbal formula, turmeric may help lessen symptoms of eczema. However, the effect of turmeric alone has yet to be examined. Additional research is required before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Eye problems 

According to early research using a combination herbal formula, turmeric may be beneficial in the treatment of certain eye problems. Despite these findings, the data on the efficacy of turmeric alone remain limited. Further research is needed in this area.

C 

Gallstone prevention/bile flow stimulant 

It has been said that there are fewer people with gallstones in India, which is sometimes credited to turmeric in the diet. Early studies have reported that curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, may decrease the occurrence of gallstones. However, reliable human studies are lacking in this area, and further research is needed.

C 

H. pylori infection 

According to early research, turmeric was lacked any benefit for those people infected with H. pylori. Well-designed research is required before conclusions can be drawn.

C 

Heartburn 

Turmeric has been traditionally used to treat stomach problems (such as indigestion from a fatty meal). There is preliminary evidence that turmeric may offer some relief from these stomach problems. However, at high doses or with prolonged use, turmeric may actually irritate or upset the stomach. Reliable human research is necessary before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Heart attack (Post CABG) 

In animals, curcumin has been shown to have protective effects in heart attacks and cardiopulmonary bypass. One clinical study indicates a decrease in heart attack while in the hospital after coronary artery bypass. Further research is needed.

C 

Heart disease prevention 

The effects of curcumin have been studied for heart disease and heart protection. However, clinical studies are limited, and further research is needed.

C 

High cholesterol 

Early studies suggest that turmeric may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood. However, clinical studies in humans have reported a lack of effect on both "bad" and "good" cholesterol. But, a reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels was also reported. Further well-designed studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Inflammation 

Turmeric and curcumin have both been identified in limited human research as having anti-inflammatory properties. In order to establish a strong conclusion, additional research is needed.

C 

Irritable bowel syndrome 

Early research has suggested that turmeric may lessen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). More studies are needed to verify these findings.

C 

Itching 

Due to turmeric's anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin has been studied in people with itching due to sulfur mustard. One clinical study indicated that curcumin may be effective for itching, but further research is needed.

C 

Leukoplakia (white patches in the mouth) 

Early research has suggested that curcumin may reduce symptoms of oral leukoplakia (white patches in the mouth). Further research is necessary before a strong conclusion can be made.

C 

Liver protection 

In India, turmeric has been used to tone the liver. Early research suggests that turmeric may have a protective effect on the liver. In rats, turmeric has been shown to possibly be mildly toxic to the liver in high doses. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Lichen planus (type of skin rash) 

Due to turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties, a study has been done in people with oral lichen planus in which a curcumin complex has been shown to improve symptoms in of oral lichen planus. Further research is needed in this area.

C 

Lupus nephritis (kidney inflammation from lupus) 

Turmeric and curcumin have both been identified as having anti-inflammatory properties. In clinical research, turmeric has been shown to possibly be helpful for relapsing lupus nephritis. However, further study is needed.

C 

Mental performance 

Curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and to reduce beta-amyloid and plaque burden in early studies. However, there is currently a lack of enough evidence to suggest the use of curcumin for mental performance. Further studies are needed.

C 

Osteoarthritis 

Turmeric has been used historically to treat rheumatic conditions. Although not well studied in humans, turmeric and curcumin may relieve symptoms associated with osteoarthritis due to their anti-inflammatory properties. More research in humans is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Early research suggests that curcumin may reduce symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Scabies 

Historically, turmeric has been used on the skin to treat chronic skin ulcers and scabies. It has also been used in combination with the leaves of the herb Azadirachta indica (neem). More research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be made.

C 

Stomach ulcer 

Turmeric has been used historically to treat stomach ulcers. However, at high doses or with prolonged use, turmeric may actually further irritate or upset the stomach. Currently, there is a lack of enough human evidence to make a firm conclusion.

C 

Surgical recovery 

Early evidence suggests that curcumin, alone or as part of a spicy diet, may aid in the reduction of pain associated with surgery. Further research is required.

C 

Ulcerative colitis 

Turmeric and curcumin have both been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies have shown that turmeric is effective for treating and preventing ulcerative colitis inflammation. However, further research in humans is needed.

C 

Weight loss 

Early human research involving a combination product containing turmeric for weight loss has been conducted. At this time, high-quality studies using turmeric alone for weight loss are lacking. Additional research is required.

C 

 

*Key to grades: 

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

For full grading rationale, click here.

Uses based on tradition or theory 

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional

Abdominal bloating, abscess, acne, aging, alcohol abuse, allergy, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), anthelmintic (expel parasitic worms), antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antivenom, antiviral, appetite stimulant, arthritis (general), ascaridiasis (worms in the gut or liver), asthma, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), boils, bruises, burns, cataracts, chemoprotective, childbirth (umbilical stump care), chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic obstructive lung disease, colic, constipation, contraception, cosmetic uses, cough, depression, diarrhea, diagnostic procedure (histological dye), dizziness, dry eye syndrome, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), epilepsy, expectorant (loosens mucus), fever, fistula, flavoring agent, food uses (coloring), gas, gonorrhea, hair growth, heart damage from doxorubicin (Adriamycin®, Doxil®), hematuria (blood in the urine), hemorrhage, hepatitis, herpes (cold sores), high blood pressure, human papillomavirus (HPV), immune function, increased sperm count/motility, increasing breast milk, infertility (bovine), insect bites, insect repellent, jaundice, kidney disease, kidney impairment, kidney stones, kidney transplant, leprosy, liver disease, lung fibrosis, malaria, menopause, menstrual pain, metabolic disorders (Neimann-Pick type C disease), multidrug resistance, multiple sclerosis, muscle ache, muscle strains/pain, nerve damage, nerve disorders, nutritional support, organ transplantation (immune suppression), pancreatitis, parasites, Parkinson's disease, prostate conditions, protection from tobacco smoke, rabies, radioprotection, respiratory disorders, rhinitis (stuffy nose), ringworm, scar healing, scleroderma, sepsis, skin disorders, snakebite, soft tissue injuries, stroke prevention, toxicity (5-aminosalicyclic acids, 5-ASA), urinary disorders, vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin), Wilson's disease, wound healing.


Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare professional immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or sensitivity to turmeric, its parts (including curcumin), certain yellow food colorings, or other members of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Turmeric is generally considered safe when used in amounts commonly found in foods.
  • Turmeric may cause an altered heartbeat, an increase in blood volume, an increase in menstruation period, an increase in urine flow, changes in skin color, changes in cholesterol (decrease "bad" cholesterol), changes in immune function, changes in thyroid function, common cold, constipation, decrease in fertility (decrease sperm), decrease in iron absorption, delusion, diarrhea, gallbladder contraction, gas, giddiness, gout pain, hair loss (high doses), heartburn, hormone changes, inflammation of stomach and intestine lining, irritated or itchy skin, kidney stones, liver cell toxicity, liver function changes, mild fever, oxidative stress, nausea, rash, skin hardness, skin papules, skin redness, stomach fullness and pain, stomach ulcers, throat infection, transient complete atrioventricular block (a heart measurement), uterine contractions, vertigo, weight loss, worsening of arthritis symptoms, and yellow or hard stools.
  • Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Turmeric may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Turmeric may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. People using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Use cautiously in people with liver dysfunction, as turmeric may alter liver function.
  • Use cautiously in people with immune system deficiencies, as turmeric may weaken the immune system.
  • Use cautiously in smokers or ex-smokers, in people at risk for iron deficiency or kidney stones, or in people with acquired metal storage diseases (including hepatitis C), vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin), sensitivity to changes in hormone levels, or gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Use cautiously with cholesterol-lowering drugs or medications absorbed by p-glycoprotein.
  • Use cautiously in combination with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors or docetaxel.
  • Use cautiously in people looking to conceive, due to the potential for antifertility effects.
  • Use cautiously in pregnancy, as turmeric may cause uterine stimulation and stimulate menstrual flow.
  • Avoid curcumin in doses over 8,000 milligrams daily.
  • Avoid in people with bile duct obstruction or gallstones.
  • Avoid in people with stomach ulcers or with increased stomach acid disorders.
  • Avoid in people allergic to turmeric, any of its parts (including curcumin), certain yellow food colorings, or other members of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Use cautiously in pregnancy, as turmeric may cause uterine stimulation and stimulate menstrual flow. Turmeric is not recommended in breastfeeding women, due to a lack of safety data.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Turmeric may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Turmeric may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. People using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a healthcare professional or pharmacist about possible interactions.
  • Turmeric may also interact with acetaminophen, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, agents for arthritis, agents for fertility, agents for the heart, agents for the stomach and intestines, agents that are toxic to the liver, agents that affect the immune system, agents that widen blood vessels, amiloride, analgesics, antibiotics, anticancer drugs, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antifungals, anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarial drugs, antiobesity agents, antiparasitics, antivirals, bone loss agents, calcium channel blockers, celecoxib, cholesterol-lowering drugs, ciprofloxacin, cisplatin, cyclodextrin, cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, dimethylsulphoxide, docetaxel, erythromycin, erythropoietin, fluoride, histone deacetylase inhibitors, hormonal agents, metronidazole, morphine, muscle relaxants, nerve agents, nifedipine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), norfloxacin, oxaliplatin, paclitaxel, paracetamol, p-glycoprotein-regulated agents, polyethylene glycosylated curcumin, praziquantel, prulifloxacin, rapamycin, retinol, ritonavir, sulfasalazine, sulfinosine, sulindac sulfone, tacrolimus, talinolol, tamoxifen, taxol, thalidomide, trichostatin A, vinorelbine, and warfarin.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, some cases with garlic, and fewer cases with saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Turmeric cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Turmeric may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the cytochrome P450 system.
  • Turmeric may also interact with, antibacterials, anticancer, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, and antiobesity herbs and supplements, antioxidants, antiparasitic and antiviral herbs and supplements, betel leaf extract, bone herbs and supplements, capsaicin, catechin, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, cobalt, copper, danshensu, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), fenugreek, fish oil, fluoride, garlic, genistein, green tea, iron, herbs and supplements for arthritis, for fertility, and for gallstones, for the heart, and for the stomach and intestines, herbs and supplements that affect the nerves, herbs and supplements that are toxic to the liver, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that widen blood vessels, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, isoflavones, isothiocyanates, lignin, Monascus pilosus, muscle relaxants, omega-3 fatty acids, p-glycoprotein-regulated herbs and supplements, piperine, piplartine, Protandim®, quercetin, resveratrol, retinol, saffron, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.

Authors

Selected References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Collins HM, Abdelghany MK, Messmer M, et al. Differential effects of garcinol and curcumin on histone and p53 modifications in tumour cells. BMC.Cancer 2013;13:37.
  2. Derochette S, Franck T, Mouithys-Mickalad A, et al. Intra- and extracellular antioxidant capacities of the new water-soluble form of curcumin (NDS27) on stimulated neutrophils and HL-60 cells. Chem Biol.Interact. 1-25-2013;201(1-3):49-57.
  3. Faiao-Flores F, Suarez JA, Maria-Engler SS, et al. The curcumin analog DM-1 induces apoptotic cell death in melanoma. Tumour.Biol. 2013;34(2):1119-1129.
  4. Hurley LL and Tizabi Y. Neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and depression. Neurotox.Res 2013;23(2):131-144.
  5. Katanasaka Y, Sunagawa Y, Hasegawa K, et al. Application of curcumin to heart failure therapy by targeting transcriptional pathway in cardiomyocytes. Biol.Pharm Bull. 2013;36(1):13-17.
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  8. Leiherer A, Mundlein A, and Drexel H. Phytochemicals and their impact on adipose tissue inflammation and diabetes. Vascul.Pharmacol 2013;58(1-2):3-20.
  9. Mohammadi A, Sahebkar A, Iranshahi M, et al. Effects of supplementation with curcuminoids on dyslipidemia in obese patients: a randomized crossover trial. Phytother Res 2013;27(3):374-379.
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  15. Zhang LN, Sun YJ, Pan S, et al. Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase, a potent neuroprotective modulator against Alzheimer disease. Fundam.Clin Pharmacol 2013;27(1):96-103.
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