Aims: To determine whether adverse drug reactions (ADRs) to herbal remedies would be reported differently from similar ADRs to conventional over-the-counter (OTC) medicines by herbal-remedy users.
Methods: Face-to-face interviews (using a structured questionnaire) with 515 users of herbal remedies were conducted in six pharmacy stores and six healthfood stores in the UK. The questionnaire focused on the likely course of action taken by herbal-remedy users after experiencing an ADR associated with a conventional OTC medicine and a herbal remedy.
Results: Following a 'serious' suspected ADR, 156 respondents (30.3%) would consult their GP irrespective of whether the ADR was associated with the use of a herbal remedy or a conventional OTC medicine, whereas 221 respondents (42.9%) would not consult their GP for a serious ADR associated with either type of preparation. One hundred and thirty-four respondents (26.0%) would consult their GP for a serious ADR to a conventional OTC medicine, but not for a similar ADR to a herbal remedy, whereas four respondents (0.8%) would consult their GP for a serious ADR to a herbal remedy, but not for a similar ADR to a conventional OTC medicine. Similar differences were found in attitudes towards reporting 'minor' suspected ADRs.
Conclusions: Consumers of herbal remedies would act differently with regard to reporting an ADR (serious or minor) to their GP depending on whether it was associated with a herbal remedy or a conventional OTC medicine. This has implications for herbal pharmacovigilance, particularly given the increasing use of OTC herbal remedies. The finding that a high proportion of respondents would not consult their GP or pharmacist following ADRs to conventional OTC medicines is also of concern.