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Reuters Health Information (2005-04-13): Herbal remedies put arthritis patients at risk of harmful interactions


Herbal remedies put arthritis patients at risk of harmful interactions

Last Updated: 2005-04-13 19:01:04 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Patients with arthritis are more likely than the general population to be using herbal remedies, which increases the risk of serious interactions with prescribed medications, results of a British study suggest.

Echinacea, gingko biloba, devil's claw, ginger and garlic are the most dangerous, Dr. Wendy Holden told Reuters Health. Echinacea poses a risk of hepatotoxicity when used with disease modifying antirheumatic drugs. The others could aggravate gastrointestinal bleeding risks when taken along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids.

To examine the extent of the problem, Dr. Holden, at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, and colleagues sent anonymous questionnaires to 238 rheumatology outpatients.

A total of 105 subjects (44%) had used herbal or over-the-counter remedies in the previous 6 months, the authors report in the May issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

"This is much higher than the general population," Dr. Holden told Reuters Health. "These patients have a condition that will last for life, and they're keen to seek alternatives rather than conventional medications sometimes."

Twenty-six subjects (11%) were taking remedies that put them at risk for serious interactions with conventional drugs. Their responses showed that 24 were unaware of the risk, although 10 of them had sought advice from a health professional before starting.

"Physicians have to be super cautious to make sure they ask what medications the patients are taking," Dr. Holden advised. "And patients should be asking their doctors if they're already on herbal remedies if they're safe to take with arthritis drugs."

Ann Rheum Dis 2005;64:790.

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