Only one in 13 drugs recommended by health shops to treat depression is proven to work, according to a survey published today based on health food shops in a city centre. Staff were more likely to prescribe multivitamins than St John's Wort, the only alternative medicine scientifically proved to have an effect.
Ginseng, liquid tonic, cat's claw, ginkgo biloba and royal jelly were also suggested as treatments, despite some having "potentially serious drug interactions".
The findings, published today in Psychiatric Bulletin, the journal from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, emerged after Joyce Reed, a junior doctor at St James's university hospital in Leeds, surveyed staff at 10 health food shops within three miles of Leeds city centre. Dr Reed turned up or rang as a customer with a range of symptoms typical of moderate depression, including lethargy, poor concentration, weight loss and weepiness.
Most of the staff asked extra questions but only two asked if a GP had been consulted, and only three asked about depression. Only one pointed out she was not medically trained. They made no response when Dr Reed claimed to be taking oral contraceptives, despite evidence that St John's wort can affect the pill.
Dr Reed, and her co-author Peter Trigwell, a consultant psychiatrist at Leeds general infirmary, admit that the "public nature" of health food shops may lead staff to avoid asking personal questions. But they were concerned that "staff are unlikely to warn customers about potential interactions and adverse side effects".
Last month the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warned that alternative remedies used to treat menopausal symptoms could cause problems. Difficulties include interacting with the blood-thinning agent warfarin and anti-depressants.
Source - Guardian