LONDON (Reuters) July 15, 2002 – More than half of all cancer patients are using complementary therapies to cope with the side effects of hospital-based therapies, according to a report published Sunday. Market consultant Datamonitor said as many as 60% of cancer patients in certain European countries, and 80% in the United States, used special diets, vitamin supplements, herbal remedies or acupuncture. It said European use of complementary and alternative medicines appeared highest in Germany where products such as mistletoe had become established folk remedies.

Datamonitor estimated the global market for complementary and alternative medicines used by cancer patients could be as high as $18 billion annually, rivaling the sales of many traditional pharmaceutical approaches.

The report warned that information published on Web sites about herbal remedies was not always accurate and advised patients to consult a physician before using them. “Some herbal products or diets can affect how prescription cancer drugs are absorbed, or can increase certain side effects of mainstream cancer therapies,” according to the report.

“Patients taking complementary medicines need to share their use of these products with their oncologist, for the patients’ safety and for the patients’ best chance of fighting cancer,” it added.

The report forecast that increased scientific studies of alternative medicines could lead to the discovery of new
drugs. Complementary medicine and pharmaceutical drug development could move closer to each other, perhaps resulting in novel therapies, new manufacturing companies and commercially successful partnerships.