Are You Using Complementary/Alternative Therapies? It’s Time to Talk, Says the NIH
According to some estimates, as many as 60% of people with MS use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). At least one survey suggests that only one-third of CAM users inform their healthcare providers of the fact. This can lead to dangerous drug interactions, a potential misreading of symptoms, and an overall lack of coordinated care. It’s time to talk about CAM, says the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, which has launched the “Time to Talk” campaign to encourage patients and health care providers to openly discuss the use of complementary and alternative therapies.
CAM includes products and practices – such as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture – which come from many different disciplines and traditions and are considered to be outside the realm of conventional medicine. When used in combination with conventional medicine, they are referred to as “complementary.” When used instead of conventional medicine, they are referred to as “alternative.”
NCCAM provides these tips to patients and physicians:
Patient tips for discussing CAM with providers
- When filling out a medical history form, include all the therapies and treatments you use.
- Tell your health care providers about all therapies or treatments you use, including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, and herbal and dietary supplements.
- If you are considering a new CAM therapy, ask your health care providers about safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking.
Health care provider tips for discussing CAM with patients
- Include a question about CAM use on medical history forms.
- Ask patients to bring a list of all therapies they use, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal therapies, and other CAM practices.
- Instruct medical staff to initiate a conversation about CAM.
The “Time to Talk” campaign offers tools and resources such as wallet cards, posters, and tip sheets. These are available for free on the NCCAM Web site or by calling the NCCAM information clearinghouse at 1-888-644-6226.
The National MS Society provides tips on complementary and alternative medicine geared to people with MS, including a worksheet for tracking medicines, and the latest data on the safety of specific complementary therapies.