Perceptions of Natural Health Products Among Patients Attending a Memory Clinic

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This study compared patient and caregiver perceptions of natural health products (NHPs) and conventional medications in a memory clinic population. A total of 620 mildly cognitively impaired patients and their care-givers participated in interviews enquiring about their perceptions of NHPs in 4 areas: (1) disclosure of NHP usage information to health care professionals, (2) safety and benefits of NHPs, (3) safety and benefits of conventional medications, and (4) physician knowledge about NHPs. Differences in responses between NHP users and nonusers and between patients and caregivers were examined. A total of 51.8% of subjects were current NHP users, with vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, and glucosamine being the most commonly used products. Multivariate analysis of variance showed that NHP use significantly influenced participant interview responses (Pillai’s trace, F[4, 613] = 3.488, P= .008), while interviewee (patient or caregiver; Pillai’s trace, F[8, 1228] = 1.499, P = .153) and gender (Pillai’s trace, F[4, 615] = 0.528, P = .715) did not. Subsequent univariate tests showed that NHP users were significantly more likely to endorse the effectiveness and safety of NHPs compared with nonusers (F[1, 616] = 7.826, P = .005). Careful questioning during visits with health care providers and better counseling may be necessary to reduce the potential for adverse events and NHP-drug interactions.

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