Increasing numbers of Americans are using alternative therapies, particularly dietary supplements. Despite obvious economic and health-related implications of supplement use, little is known about the frequency with which rheumatology patients use these agents. We surveyed 298 consecutive rheumatology outpatients and 274 general medicine outpatients concerning their use of dietary supplements within the previous 2 years. Overall, 30.6% of patients reported using dietary supplements. Although there was not a significant difference in the frequency of use between clinics, patterns of use in the clinics differed. Rheumatology patients were much more likely to have used glucosamine sulfate or chondroitin sulfate, whereas general medicine patients were more likely to have used garlic and aloe vera. Higher levels of education were associated with an increased frequency of supplement use. Additionally, rheumatology patients were more likely to have discussed the use of these agents with a physician, although at a disappointingly low rate. The frequency with which patients use such agents underscores use of dietary supplements as a growing public health concern. Given the implications of supplement use, physicians and patients must communicate better about the use of these agents.
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