Complementary and alternative medicine for multiple sclerosis

Author(s): Schwarz S, Knorr C, Geiger H, Flachenecker P


We analyzed characteristics, motivation, and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine in a large sample of people with multiple sclerosis. A 53-item survey was mailed to the members of the German Multiple Sclerosis Society, chapter of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Surveys of 1573 patients (48.5 +/- 11.7 years, 74% women, duration of illness 18.1 +/- 10.5 years) were analyzed. In comparison with conventional medicine, more patients displayed a positive attitude toward complementary and alternative medicine (44% vs 38%, P < 0.05), with 70% reporting lifetime use of at least one method. Among a wide variety of complementary and alternative medicine, diet modification (41%), Omega-3 fatty acids (37%), removal of amalgam fillings (28%), vitamins E (28%), B (36%), and C (28%), homeopathy (26%), and selenium (24%) were cited most frequently. Most respondents (69%) were satisfied with the effects of complementary and alternative medicine. Use of complementary and alternative medicine was associated with religiosity, functional independence, female sex, white-collar job, and higher education (P < 0.05). Compared with conventional therapies, complementary and alternative medicine rarely showed unwanted side effects (9% vs 59%, P < 0.00001). A total of 52% stated that the initial consultation with their physician lasted less than 15 min. To conclude, main reasons for the use of complementary and alternative medicine include the high rate of side effects and low levels of satisfaction with conventional treatments and brief patients/physicians contacts.

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