Many Heart Patients Use Alternative Medicines

But many fail to tell their doctors, raising drug interaction risks, study found

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THURSDAY, Nov. 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Many heart patients use complementary and alternative medicines but their doctors often don't know about it, a new Canadian study finds.

"In the era of evidence-based medicine, we have more patients who are quite comfortable with alternative medicine rather than drugs proven to work," study author Dr. Beth Abramson, director of the Cardiac Prevention Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said in a prepared statement.

"Unfortunately, many patients believe that if something is natural, then it's safe," she added. "But many of these alternative medicines are not regulated, aren't necessarily safe, and many have not been proven effective."

Her team's study of 308 heart patients found that 45 percent used compleentary or alternative, with the majority of these treatments herbal medications, vitamins and minerals. However, just 56 percent of those patients' heart specialists and 75 percent of their family doctors were aware of the use of these therapies.

Eight percent of the patients' heart specialists and 13 percent of their family doctors asked about the patients' use of complementary or alternative medicines. The study also found that 39 percent of users believed it was important for their doctors to know about use of such therapies, and 50 percent said they were aware of the risks of using them.

More than half the patients using complementary or alternative therapies learned about them through friends or the news media, while 21 percent received this information from their doctors.

The study was presented this week at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, in Dallas.

Abramson urged heart patients to give their doctors a list of any non-traditional therapies they might be taking.

"Depending on the alternative medication, there can be life-threatening interactions with prescribed cardiac medications," she warned.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more about complementary and alternative medicines.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 15, 2005


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