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Herb warning as vaccine offers ragweed hope

Monday February 15th, 2010

People with asthma should not rely on herbal remedies, experts have warned.

People who drop standard medication for alternative therapies suffer more symptoms and poorer quality of life than others, according to a study published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Researcher Dr Angkana Roy says the main problem is that people who take herbal remedies are less likely than others to use prescription medicine.

Dr Roy, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA, said: "Results indicate patients using herbal remedies are less likely to take their prescribed medications.

"These patients report worse asthma control and poorer quality of life than patients who follow medication plans. Underuse of prescribed medication is one of the main factors contributing to poor outcomes in asthma patients."

Researchers studied more than 300 patients over a period of nearly three years. About 25 per cent said they used herbal treatments - often because they found it difficult to keep to times for taking prescribed medicines and were worried about side-effects.

Dr Leonard Bielory, of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said: "Patients interested in herbal remedies need to use them to complement treatment and not as an alternative, or they will not maximise their health and may actually hinder it as this study shows.

"Remember, asthma is a serious disease and needs to be treated that way. Always ask your allergist about medication concerns and discuss use of herbal remedies."

He added: "Anyone with asthma should be able to feel good, be active all day and sleep well at night. No one should accept anything less."

* Meanwhile British researchers reported hope for development of radical new vaccines for ragweed and cat allergy.

A company called Circassia Ltd, based in Oxford, is seeking to develop what are known as T-cell vaccines, which it is hoped can fine-tune the immune system.

A small number of patients have now completed trials aimed at testing the safety of the ragweed allergy treatment and looking for evidence that it works.

Skin tests conducted during the ragweed season showed that patients seemed to have reduce allergic reactions.

Steve Harris, of Circassia, said: "These highly encouraging clinical results further validate our unique T-cell vaccine approach to allergy therapy.

"Unlike current immunotherapies, which require increasing doses over a number of months and several years of maintenance, ToleroMune therapy is short and simple, and minimises the risk of the severe and sometimes life-threatening side effects associated with many existing treatments."

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Alternative Therapy | Child Health | North America | UK News

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