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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP scripts for herbs soaring

GP prescribing of herbal and

homoeopathic medicines has soared over the last decade.

A Scottish audit found more than half of practices now offer herbal and homoeopathic re-medies, compared with rates of just a few per cent reported in the mid-1990s.

But the researchers warned their study raised concerns about the risk of herb-drug interactions, as well as ethical issues over the use of homoeopathy in children. 'The apparent acceptance and use of homoeopathic and herbal medicine within primary care, especially in the young, requires critical review,' their study concluded.

The audit of 323 practices across Scotland found 60 per cent prescribed homoeopathic or herbal remedies in 2003/4. Two similar surveys in England in 1995 found only 7 per cent of GPs used homoeopathy and fewer than 1 per cent used herbal medicines.

The new study ­ to be published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology ­ identified 'well-recognised' interactions in 4 per cent of those on oral herbal remedies. It also found around

1 per cent of children were treated with homoeopathy.

Study leader Dr Sarah Ross, clinical lecturer at the department of medicine and therapeutics, University of Aberdeen, said there was concern over herb-drug interactions, and add- ed: 'There does seem to be an increase in practices using homoeopathy. Treating children with unproven medicines is ethically an interesting area.'

Professor Edzard Ernst, director of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Devon, said: 'There is much concern. GPs need to ask specifically ­ any decent medical history has to ask specific questions about herbal medicine usage.

'At the moment my guess

is the average GP knows next

to nothing about herbal

medicine.'

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