In June, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health launched a campaign called “Time To Talk” to encourage both patients and health care providers to discuss the use of complementary and alternative treatments (CAM).
The concern behind the campaign is that up to 60 percent of people living with MS use some form of CAM but only one-third report it to their health care providers. Because many forms of CAM interact with conventional treatments, the health care provider, not knowing what is being used, could make recommendations for medications that could cause harm to the patient. Part of the problem is that patients don’t think of CAM as being relevant to a prescription therapy. There is also a concern among patients that telling their physician may lead to criticism. Part of the “It’s Time To Talk” campaign is to inform health care providers about their role in CAM.
When you go to an appointment with any of your healthcare providers, be sure to take a list of all medications, supplements, herbs and over the counter medications you use. You could also take the containers of each of your medications and supplements for your provider to see. That way, he can read the labels for content.
Ideally, it would be best to ask your provider about various CAM therapies before you start them. You need to know about safety, evidence of effectiveness and possible interactions. If your provider is not informed, seek your own answers. Resources include Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis by Allen Bowling, MD, Ph.D. from Demos Medical Publishing and http://nccam.nih.gov/timetotalk/.
General recommendations when considering a CAM therapy:
- Evaluate the content of the information you have. Does it report any scientific review of its effectiveness?
- Be suspicious of claims of “cure” or “new discovery” that are advertised by someone other than a reliable source such as the National MS Society or panels of MS experts.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is. There is no conspiracy out there to keep “the good stuff” on the back shelf.
- If a product is advertised as “natural”, it is not necessarily safe. Many natural products can be toxic or lethal.
- Over the counter medications are not always safe. Usually they are if taken in the correct dosage recommended, but too many people take more than what is advised which can cause major problems with toxicity and interactions. A good example is acetaminophen which has potential for liver toxicity, especially when mixed with other products that also do. Acetaminophen is used in many over the counter treatments such as cold products, sleep aids, and allergy treatments. Read labels carefully.
Join the “Time To Talk” campaign and discuss your CAM use with your providers.