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Complementary therapies linked with worse quality of life

By Nigel Praities

GPs should monitor complementary therapy use in patients with arthritis as it is associated with worse quality of life, warn researchers.

Their study found worse physical function and bodily pain scores in patients with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, knee osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia who were using complementary therapies, compared with those not using them.

The study – published online in Clinical Rheumatology – looked at the SF-36 scores of 445 patients attending a rheumatology clinic and found 56% were taking alternative therapies such as herbal or homeopathic remedies, vitamin or food supplements or using techniques such as meditation or manipulation.

Those patients using complementary therapies had significantly lower total SF-36 scores than non-users, with lower scores also noted for the general health, bodily pain, physical function and social function domains.

After further statistical analysis, the physical function and bodily pain domains were found to be independently associated with complementary therapy use by the Mexican researchers.

They concluded complementary therapy use could be indicative of a failure to respond to conventional therapies, but also could be ‘potentially damaging' to patients.

‘The present results serve as a warning to health care professionals caring for rheumatic disease patients that they need to explore CAM use and use context in their patients,' concluded the researchers.

Dr Iain Gilchrist, a GP in Bishops Stortford, Essex, and president of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society, said the research confirmed there was little evidence for benefit for many complementary therapies.

‘In conditions for which there is no cure and doctors are trying to alleviate symptoms or slow down its progress, patients will often turn to complementary therapies to see if they can get added benefit from them.

‘But if they do feel better, whether this is a placebo or a pharmacological effect is unknown,' he said.

Homeopathy: among treatments which can harm patients claim researchers Homeopathy: among treatments which can harm patients claim researchers

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