The Editorial Executive Committee welcomes letters, which should be less than 250 words. Before a decision to publish is made, letters which refer to a published article may be sent to the author for a response. Any letter may be sent to an expert for comment. When letters are published, they are usually accompanied in the same issue by their responses or comments. The Committee screens out discourteous, inaccurate or libellous statements. The letters are sub-edited before publication. Authors are required to declare any conflicts of interest. The Committee's decision on publication is final.

Letter to the editor

Editor, – I refer to the articles 'It's natural so it must be safe' (Aust Prescr 2002;25:50-1) and 'Interactions between complementary medicines and warfarin' (Aust Prescr 2002;25:54-6).I would like to draw your attention to the finding that patients may be using complementary medicine while they are in hospital.

A three-week study in a Sydney hospital found that 61 (12%) of the 511 patients, who had their medication history recorded by a clinical pharmacist, were taking a total of 156 complementary medicines (including vitamins). A high proportion(47%) of the complementary medicines had been self prescribed and 25 (41%)patients were taking complementary medicines without the knowledge of their general practitioner. After admission to hospital 22 (36%) patients continued taking 47 different complementary medicines, but only half of these complementary medicines were recorded in the patients' charts.1

Eleven (18%) patients were taking drugs which could potentially interact with the complementary medicines they were taking. Six patients were taking more than one potentially interacting complementary medicine. The use of complementary medicines is significant and warrants routine inclusion in the patient medication histories. Information about potential interactions can be obtained from clinical pharmacists, drug information centres and the Therapeutic Advice and Information Service of the National Prescribing Service.

Susan Welch
Clinical Pharmacist
St Vincent's Public Hospital


  1. Welch SA. The use of complementary medicines by inpatients at St Vincent's Hospital Sydney. Aust J Hosp Pharm 2001;31:111-3.