Alternative therapy use by Parkinson's patients

In a study of more than 200 patients with Parkinson's disease, 40 percent used at least one type of alternative therapy, such as vitamins/herbs, massage and acupuncture. Over half of the patients failed to inform their physicians about the use of alternative therapies.

"This is concerning," said Stephen Reich, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the study. "While the public generally assumes that vitamins and herbs are safe, a rapidly growing number of studies shows that they can have potentially harmful effects and interactions with other drugs."

"More attention should be directed at testing the safety and efficacy of these treatments, and also on improving physician and patient communication about the potential benefits, costs and risks of alternative therapies," said Reich.

In addition, Parkinson's patients who use alternative therapies tend to be younger, more educated and have higher incomes than patients who don't use alternative therapies.

The researchers found no relationship between severity of disease and use of alternative therapies. "This suggests that people are not turning to alternative therapies out of desperation," said Reich.

Alternative medicine is one of the fastest growing industries in health care, with at least one-third of American adults taking some sort of alternative therapy on an annual basis. Yet many physicians are unaware of the widespread use of alternative therapies among patients, according to Reich.

"Few studies have focused on the use of alternative therapies by patients with neurologic conditions, and ours is the first to investigate Parkinson's disease," said Reich.

For the study, published in the Sept. 11 issue of Neurology, 201 Hopkins patients were interviewed about their current and past use of alternative treatments for Parkinson's disease.

Of the patients using alternative therapies, 26 percent reported using tw

Contact: Trent Stockton
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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