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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Apr;57(4):M223-7.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by older adults: a comparison of self-report and physician chart documentation.

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  • 1Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029-6574, USA.



Older adults are increasingly using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) dietary supplements and herbal remedies, but may not discuss this with their physicians. When patients do report using CAM, their physicians may not record this information in patient charts.


This cross-sectional analysis compared results of a convenience sample survey with medical charts. Participants were older than 65 and from an urban academic hospital's ambulatory geriatrics practice. We measured (i) prevalence of CAM use; (ii) proportion of CAM supplements and herbs (CAMsh) reported by patients and documented in patients' charts; (iii) percentage of patients reporting taking CAMsh with anticoagulant activity (ginger, ginkgo, garlic, and vitamin E) while concomitantly taking prescribed anticoagulant medications, as per chart; and (iv) percentages of those patients for whom the CAM anticoagulant was or was not documented in the chart.


We surveyed 212 patients; of those, 182 had available charts. Prevalence of CAM use was 64%. Only 35% of all self-reported supplements were documented in the charts. Of 182 patients, 84 (46%) reported taking CAM with anticoagulant properties: of these, 52% took a prescribed anticoagulant (per chart), while 48% took CAM but not prescribed anticoagulants.


CAM use is highly prevalent among older adults. Physicians do not consistently record the use of CAMsh on patients' charts. This may lead to unrecognized, potentially harmful drug-herb/drug-supplement interactions. Physicians should elicit and document information on CAM use from older adult patients, both to provide sound medical care and to advance knowledge about drug-herb/drug-supplement interactions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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