CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Feb. 9, 2000
UI survey shows patients believe doctors should know
about herbal therapy use
IOWA CITY, Iowa Although you don't need a doctor's
prescription for herbs, you should tell your health care providers about any
herbs you are taking, suggest Iowans who responded to a University of Iowa
Health Care survey.
According to the results, both respondents who did and
didn't use herbs indicated that they believed that physicians should be aware
of herb use.
"We are pleased that people are beginning to understand
that they must let their health care providers know about herb use because
even though you can buy herbs without a doctor's prescription, they are drugs
and do affect the body," said Teresa Klepser, Pharm.D., UI assistant professor
Herbal therapies are becoming increasingly popular. Americans
spent an estimated $5.1 billion on herbal therapies alone in 1997. Some people
use herbs as alternatives to traditional medications. Others use natural drugs
to complement or supplement prescribed drugs and treatments.
Herbal products are officially classified as dietary supplements.
Therefore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate them nor
do herbs require post-marketing safety surveillance. This means that the burden
of identifying and reporting herb-related adverse affects falls to health
care providers. Another big concern is drug interaction. Although many drugs
and herbs may be safe when taken alone, the risk of significant interactions
increases when several agents are ingested in combination.
If patients do not disclose their herb use, health care
providers have no way of knowing about associated problems. Past surveys have
indicated that many people do not tell their health care providers about their
herbal usage. One alarming finding from a previous study showed that 60 percent
of the approximately 15 million adults who had consumed dietary supplements,
including herbs, while taking prescription drugs, did not tell their physicians
about their herb use.
A group of UI pharmacists decided to conduct a statewide
survey because they wanted to find out about the situation in Iowa.
In addition to learning that Iowans believe physicians
should know about herbal therapy use, the survey also showed that:
- Of the respondents, 41.6 percent indicated that they
had used an herbal product.
- The five most commonly used were aloe (136 respondents
or 41.2 percent), garlic (95 respondents or 28.8 percent), ginseng (81
respondents or 24.5 percent) echinacea (72 respondents or 21.8 percent),
and St. John's Wort (69 respondents or 20.9 percent)
- Of the herbal users, 76 percent were women.
- As for education, 75 percent of the herbal users
had some degree of higher education. Herb use was lowest among those indicating
a high school degree or less as their highest level of education.
- Compared with nonusers, individuals who had used
herbs had a less positive perception of the safety of prescription drugs
and a more positive perception concerning the safety of herbal products.
- Nonusers generally perceived the risks associated
with herbal products and prescription drugs to be comparable.
The results from the UI survey were based on the responses
of 794 completed surveys -- 623 from individuals who filled out the questionnaire
while visiting UI-affiliated clinics around the state and 171 from people
who responded to a mailing. The survey results are included in an article
in the recent issue of Pharmacotherapy.
UI pharmacists are continuing to look at herb use and
plan to conduct further surveys of population subgroups, such as older individuals.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership
between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the
patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.