Why physicians need to look more closely at the use of complementary and alternative medicine by multiple sclerosis patients

Eur J Neurol. 2004 Apr;11(4):263-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-1331.2003.00758.x.


With the aim of contributing to the knowledge of attitudes, patterns and motivations for the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for multiple sclerosis (MS), 109 MS outpatients, or their close relative in cases of mental status impairment, were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. The main results are: (i). 35.7% used at least one CAM at least once; (ii). homeopathy and diets were the most common; (iii). 39.4% showed a positive attitude towards CAM; (iv). a perceived benefit was recorded in 61.5% of cases; (v). the referral source was a physician in only 12.8% of cases; (vi). caring neurologist was not consulted in 82% and generalist was not consulted in 67% of cases; (vii). of 61 CAM interventions, 21 were expected to be disease-modifying and 40 symptomatic; (viii). CAM negatively influenced compliance with conventional medical management in very few cases (2/39); (ix). a higher expanded disability status scale (EDSS) was observed in CAM users; and (x). in those who used CAM during last 3 years (21.1%), the approximate mean cost per year per person was 483 euro. In Italy, the use of CAM in MS is widespread but costly. This study has provided further baseline data on which to assess trends in CAM use and has highlighted issues for patients and conventional doctors about the use of CAM to deal with health problems. More research into the implications of concurrent use of CAM with conventional medicine on public health care is required.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Complementary Therapies / classification
  • Complementary Therapies / economics
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Complementary Therapies / trends*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires