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Most complementary therapies don't work in arthritis

By Lilian Anekwe

Most complementary medicines are ineffective and not backed by robust clinical evidence, according to a report on their use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

A report by the charity the Arthritis Research Campaign compiled the evidence base available from randomised controlled trials of complementary and alternative medicines for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers looked at topical and oral therapies and measure effectiveness by improvements in pain, movement or general well-being.

The report found evidence from randomised controlled trials was only available for 40 complementary medicines currently on sale in the UK. Considerable variations were also found in the quality of the available evidence.

For nearly two thirds of compounds used for rheumatoid arthritis the available data suggest they are not effective. 62% (13 out of 21) of complementary had or little effect based on the available evidence, scoring 1 out of 5 on the effectiveness scale.

6 out of 27 (22%) of medicines had little or no effect on osteoarthritis, and of only four products assessed in patients with fibromyalgia, none were highly effective.

Professor Alan Silman, the Arthritis Research Campaign's medical director, said: ‘Complementary medicines are widely used by people with arthritis as they seek to avoid taking potentially harmful drugs, preferring natural products.

‘However, natural does not mean they are either safe – or effective. Many people spend hundreds of pounds on these products and they need to know that there is a strong chance of benefit.'

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