The Big Business of Complementary Therapies

Taken from NRAS magazine, Autumn 2011

Complementary therapies are an area of great interest to many people with RA, which should come as no surprise, given that people in the UK are reported to spend around £1.6 billion per year on complementary therapies, with the US spending $47 billion.

Being told that you may need life-long medication for your disease can be devastating, so it is not surprising that many will want to look for alternatives, with potentially reduced levels of side-effects. Unfortunately, only the standard disease modifying drugs have currently been found to be successful in slowing down the progression of this disease. However, this does not mean that complementary therapies do not have a place alongside standard medications in treating the everyday symptoms of the disease, though it is vital that you check with your rheumatologist, GP or pharmacist before taking anything that may interfere with your standard medications.

One of the messages to come out of the EULAR sessions on complementary therapies this year was that more research is needed in this area, and it is hoped that pharmaceutical companies may start to take more of an interest in research areas such as the potentially negative interactions between the standard medications and some common complementary medicines. St. John’s Wort, for example appears to interact with around 50% of prescription medications across the board. It is also important to note that commonly used therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractics are not completely risk-free and can be damaging in the wrong hands.