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Alternative Treatments

There are remedies, supplements, and “medical foods” that are often referred to as alternative treatments. Alternative treatments are not regulated and do not need to adhere to the same standards as FDA-approved treatments. Claims about their safety and effectiveness are based largely on testimonials, tradition, or a small body of scientific research.

If you are considering taking an alternative treatment, talk openly with your physician. It is important to be aware of risks so you can make an informed decision. Even if advertised as “natural,” alternative treatments can involve potentially powerful substances that have not met the FDA standards for effectiveness or safety, and some alternative medicines can cause unintended reactions when taken with prescription medications.
Find out the facts about alternative therapies

Here is a list of questions to ask when considering an alternative treatment or supplement:

  1. Did the FDA test the product? If so, what were the results?
    The FDA may have tested a product, but found it to be ineffective for the intended purpose. The company may still release the product as a medical food, with or without changes.
  2. Has any non-FDA testing been done? If so, what were the results? 
    Does the testing entity have a vested interest in the outcomes? For example, was testing done only by the company developing the product? If so, the results may not be entirely reliable.
  3. Does the developer of the product or the person recommending it to you stand to gain financially from the use of the medication?
    If so, use extreme caution. Check with your care team to see if they have any questions or concerns with your plan to use it.
  4. Is the product compatible with the other medications you are taking or with your diagnosis?
    Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether the product could cause negative outcomes given your diagnosis and any medications you are taking.
  5. Does use of the product have any known risks?
    Ask your doctor or the pharmacist if the product has any known side effects.