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Open Access Research article

Questions about complementary and alternative medicine to the Regional Medicines Information and Pharmacovigilance Centres in Norway (RELIS): a descriptive pilot study

Jan Schjøtt123* and Hilde Erdal3

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Clinical Pharmacology, Laboratory of Clinical Biochemistry, Haukeland University Hospital, 5021 Bergen, Norway

2 Institute of Clinical Science, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

3 Regional Medicines Information and Pharmacovigilance Centre (RELIS Vest), Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:56  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-56

Published: 14 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Provision of clinically relevant information about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to health care professionals is not well described. The aim of the study was to assess questions about CAM to the Regional Medicines Information and Pharmacovigilance Centres in Norway (RELIS).

Methods

All question-answers pairs (QAPs) in the RELIS database indexed with alternative medicine from 2005-2010 constituted the study material. A randomly selected sample of 100 QAPs was characterized with regard to type of question (category, patient-specific or general), occupation and workplace of enquirer, the type of information search performed (simple or advanced), and if the answers contained information to provide factual or consultative replies (facts about or advice on clinical use of CAM, respectively). Proportions were compared with Fisher’s exact test with significance at the 0.05 level.

Results

One thousand and thirty-eight (7.7%) out of 13 482 questions involved CAM. Eighty-two out of 100 questions concerned products containing one or more herbs, vitamins and minerals as well as other substances. Thirty-eight out of 100 questions concerned the category documentation (substance identification and/or literature reports about clinical effects), 36 interactions, 16 adverse effects, 9 pregnancy and lactation, and 1 question concerned contraindications. Sixty-three questions were patient-specific and 37 general. Fifty-four questions came from physicians, 33 from pharmacists and 13 from others (including nurses, midwives, students, CAM practitioners, and the public). Pharmacists asked more frequently about interactions while physicians asked more frequently about adverse effects (p < 0.05). Seventy-six of the questions came from outside hospital, mainly general practice and community pharmacies. Fifty-nine answers were based on a simple and 41 on an advanced information search. Thirty-three factual and 38 consultative answers were provided. In 29 answers, search provided no information. Lack of information to provide an answer was not significantly different between patient-specific (31.7%) and general questions (24.3%).

Conclusions

General practice and community pharmacies are the main sources for questions about CAM to RELIS. Physicians are concerned about adverse effects while pharmacists are concerned about interactions. Lack of information to provide answers to patient-specific and general questions about CAM represents a problem.

Keywords:
Drug information; Complementary and alternative medicine; Decision support