Aussies are being warned of the potentially harmful effects of taking unproven complementary medicines and therapies with fears they could end up in a dire condition with very little cash.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is urging all Australians considering different medical treatments to think before they act as the use of complementary medicines skyrockets. In the last 10 years the Australian complementary medicine industry revenue has doubled to $4.9M annually, including $630M on herbal products and $430M on weight loss products in 2017.
In a bid to crackdown on any issues resulting from taking the medicines, the AMA has released its updated Position Statement on Complementary Medicine 2018. This reflects changes to state laws and national monitoring systems that have come into place since the Position Statement was last reviewed in 2011-12.
According to AMA President Dr Tony Bartone, while the AMA recognises that evidence-based aspects of complementary medicine, there is little evidence to support the therapeutic claims made for most of these medicines and therapies.
He claimed the majority of complementary medicines don’t meet the same standards of safety, quality and efficacy as mainstream medicines, as they aren’t as rigorously tested, causing much concern for Australians.
“Some can cause adverse reactions, or interact with conventional medicine,” he said in a statement. “Most just don’t do anything at all.
“But they do pose a risk to patient health, either directly through misuse, or indirectly if a patient puts off seeking medical advice, or has spent so much on these products that they cannot afford necessary, evidence-based treatment.”
Children are particularly vulnerable, with the AMA explaining that diagnosing and treating illnesses is complex. As such, doctor must be involved in any diagnosis and ongoing treatment plan, including the use of complementary medicine.
The AMA has long advocated for better regulation of non-registered health practitioners, such as naturopaths, herbalists and Ayurveda practitioners. While they have seen some positive changes over the last six years with all states and territories now having regulations to protect people from unsafe and unethical practitioners, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure complete safety of Aussies.
“All unregistered practitioners must comply with a code of conduct, and they can be sanctioned or banned if they breach the code,”Bartone said. “But we still do not have a national, public register of non-registered practitioners who have been banned from working in their state or territory, despite all government agreeing in 2015 to establish one.”
He recommended that a register should be established as quickly as possible to alert the public and potential employers of any risks.
Research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology last year revealed just how harmful mixing herbal remedies and natural alternatives with conventional drugs. According to the study, some alternatives have the potential to change the way prescription medication works with your body.
While many people use herbs such as natural remedies such as sage, flaxseed, St. John’s wort, cranberry, goji juice, green tea and chamomilla, the research found that significant interactions occurred with a range of medication. These included medications like warfarin and statins, commonly used for conditions including epilepsy, heart disease, depression and HIV.
The study noted that herb-drug interaction (HDI) was becoming more of a public health problem and can result in life-threatening reactions when mixed with other medication.
Authors of the study noted a rise in rejections in heart, renal and liver transplants and found that people hiding their herbal treatments from health professionals was also partly to blame for a series of serious health problems. Serious issues include organ damage, with other side effects include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, a decline in mental health and even seizures also being recorded.
It’s always important to discuss medications with a doctor or health professional before taking.