Writing in the August issue of the journal, Dr Uzma Siddiqui and colleagues enrolled patients with hepatitis C who were seen at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System in the gastroenterology, infectious disease and primary care clinics.
Herbal therapies are used by a large number of people in the USA (see a previous GastroHep.com news story on this) and the researchers hypothesized that use of these supplements may be even higher in those with chronic liver disease.
They carried out a prospective study to investigate the proportion of US veterans with chronic hepatitis C that are currently taking vitamins and herbal medications and then evaluated the factors associated with use of herbal preparations.
Five hundred suitable study patients were interviewed by trained research coordinators who collected detailed demographic and clinical data, as well as information on the use of antioxidants (vitamin C and E), multivitamins, and herbal medications.
As a control group, 250 healthy patients were also questioned in the same way.
… documentation of the use of these supplements is critical to determine the potential for herbal-drug interactions and hepatotoxicity
|Dr Uzma Siddiqui, Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology|
Vitamin use was much higher in the hepatitis C patients than in the control group.
Vitamin C was used by 34.8% of hepatitis C patients as compared to 19.6% in the control group.
A total of 25.8% of hepatitis C patients used vitamin E, and 43.6% multivitamins, compared to 13.2% and 28.0% of the control group, respectively.
The use of herbal therapies was also higher in the hepatitis C group compared to controls (21.0% versus 10.4%, respectively).
The most common herbal medications taken by hepatitis C patients were milk thistle (12.2%), ginseng (4.6%), and echinacea (3.0%).
After adjusting for age and gender, multivariate logistic regression identified 12 or more years of education and annual income of at least $20,000 as the only significant predictors of herbal medication use in patients with hepatitis C.
Dr Siddiqui concluded, "The use of herbal preparations is prevalent among veterans with chronic hepatitis C, especially those with higher levels of education and higher incomes."
She added, "Obtaining a detailed medical history and documentation of the use of these supplements is critical to determine the potential for herbal-drug interactions and hepatotoxicity."