The Ministry of Health is warning of the “dangerous myth” surrounding alternative medicine in the wake of a rise in the number of Barbadians with chronic non-communicable diseases who are looking for all-natural alternatives to prescription drugs.
In a report late last month, Barbados TODAY quoted officials at Amaze, Fresh Vitamins and Jenn’s Health and Beauty Supplies as saying an increasing number of customers were complaining about the side effects of the medicines prescribed by their doctors – including nausea, pain, acid reflux, and other stomach problems – and wanted products that would treat their condition effectively without any negative effects.
However, the ministry warned in a prepared statement that it was a false belief that the so-called all-natural remedies presented no side effects.
“It is a dangerous myth that alternative medicines have no side effects. All drugs, including alternative and herbal medicines, have side effects,” the ministry said.
It added that unlike the drugs issued through the Barbados Drug Service (BDS), there was “usually little or no scientific evidence” on the clinical benefits of alternative medicines, nor was there adequate safety information on these products.
It also questioned some of the marketing tactics used by sellers, describing them as “misleading or deceptive”, especially when there are claims of cure for diseases.
“It must be appreciated that the Barbados Drug Service does not monitor the source of alternative medicines nor the manufacturing process as is done with standard pharmaceuticals. Due to the absence of data from rigorous clinical trials and the paucity of data on standardization, efficacy and safety of alternative medicines, the Ministry of Health cautions all persons on their use for the treatment of acute or chronic medical conditions,” the ministry stressed in the statement to Barbados TODAY.
All the health food stores had said they sold products that claimed to treat various non-communicable diseases, including those that claimed to regulate cholesterol, dissolve blood clots and plaque on the walls of the arteries, and help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The Ministry of Health said Barbadians had a right to seek alternative treatments for any health conditions that they may be experiencing. However, it advised those considering alternative medicine to first consult their physicians, “especially if they are on standard medications for the management of chronic medical conditions, since drug interactions may occur and these may lead to toxicity, reduced effectiveness of the drug”.
It also made a strong case for the BDS, insisting that the drugs that it distributes were reputable and had been tested or approved by recognized agencies, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, the European Medicine Authority and the World Health Organization.
Additionally, it said, the BDS monitors the use of drugs here and any one that presents a risk is taken off the market.