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Saw palmetto no better than placebo for enlarged prostate

Saw palmetto, an herbal extract commonly taken to improve urinary symptoms in men with enlargement of the prostate gland, is no more effective than a placebo, according to a new study.

The year-long, double-blind study of 225 men was led by Stephen Bent, MD, a staff physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and Andrew Avins, MD, MPH, of the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

The results are published in the February 9, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In their study, the researchers randomly assigned patients with enlargement of the prostate, also known as or benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH, to take either saw palmetto or a placebo twice a day for one year. Subjects returned at regular intervals to be assessed for symptoms and side effects. Symptoms were assessed according to a standard symptom score for BPH and objective measures of urinary function.

"If you look at the change in symptoms over time between the two groups, it was almost identical," reports Bent, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "There was no statistically significant difference at any time point during the study."

The researchers also looked at subgroups of patients those with more and less severe symptoms and those with larger and smaller prostates and found no difference in any of the subgroups between the herbal extract and placebo.

"The results of this study clearly do not support a strong clinical benefit of saw palmetto for BPH," concludes Bent. "However, whether other doses, formulations, or patient populations might respond differently is unknown."

The researchers estimate that saw palmetto is used by over two million men in the United States for treatment of BPH, which is said by the National Institutes of Health to affect more than 50 percent of men over 60 and upwards of 90 percent of men over 70.

Bent acknow
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Contact: Steve Tokar
steve.tokar@ncire.org
415-221-4810 x5202
University of California - San Francisco
8-Feb-2006


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