A new paper by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that the use of alternative medicines, such as herbal products and nutraceuticals, among children has doubled since 2003. The research, published June 18 in JAMA Pediatrics, was led by Dr. Dima Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the UIC College of Pharmacy. Dr. Caleb Alexander, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of epidemiology and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, is a senior author.
The researchers cited an increased use of Omega-3 fatty acids and melatonin among adolescents ages 13 to 18 as the primary driver of the change, despite clinical recommendations against use of such supplements in children. Use of dietary supplements, of which herbal, non-vitamin alternative medicines are one type, remained high but otherwise stable, with approximately one-third of children using a dietary supplement.