• Caring for Patients: Alternative Medication Therapy

    Alternative medication can be defined as those compounds that are intended for use in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of disease but are not approved or recognized as medication by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Included in this definition are compounds that are commonly referred to as herbal medicines, nutritional or dietary supplements, phytomedicinals and organic and natural products.

    Compounds that are available as prescription medication in a foreign country, but are not approved by the FDA for use in the United States will also be considered Alternative Medication for purposes of this discussion. Medication products that are approved for use by the FDA, but are being used for unlabeled indications will not be considered Alternative Medication, for the purposes of this discussion. Investigational medication that is not approved for routine use by the FDA but is being used as part of a research protocol will also not be considered within the scope of this discussion.

    It is the responsibility of care givers such as physicians and nurses to be aware of the medications that are being used to treat patients. Many hospitals have protocols in place that deal exclusively with alternative medication therapies, to ensure the efficacy that the medicines are safe, pure and of known composition.

    Alternative medications as defined previously have not undergone rigorous scientific evaluation to establish safety and efficacy, are not subject to the stringent manufacturing and quality standards imposed by the FDA, and are not reliably identifiable to content.

    It is recognized that some Alternative Medication may have scientific evidence and, in some cases, years of tradition which support a real or perceived therapeutic value. As a general rule, those patients that are admitted to hospitals are usually allowed to keep their Alternative Medications with them. However, before they can use them, the medications must go down to pharmacy where they are labeled and identified with the patient’s name and room number. Pharmacy will then send the medication to be placed in the medication drawer of the patient for the nurse to administer.

    Most often, a physician’s order is necessary before the patient is allowed to use their medication form home. Patients feel a sense of relief that they are allowed to use their Alternative Medication while in the hospital. If the hospital were, in fact, to procure such medication, then the patient would be charged a great deal of money, which their insurance probably would not pay.

    Times are changing to the effect that care givers must deal with the reality that there is a great number of people who don’t have medical coverage, are unemployed and have little to no money to pay for hospital stays. In some cases, Alternative Medication therapy is less expensive than generic or name brand drugs.

    While recognizing the fact that many people are considering Alternative Medication therapy, it is also up to the physician to have a thorough knowledge of such medications. These medications can be very potent, interfere with other medications by either causing a harmful effect of nullifying the effect of the prescribed medication. Thorough health assessments must include questions that ask the patient if they are taking such medications. Health professionals should learn as much as possible regarding uses and side effects of Alternative Medication therapies if they are to treat people.

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