Cancer doctors warn vs herbal medicines

THE Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO) warned cancer patients to be cautious about resorting to complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) for cancer treatment.

Doctors from Cebu and Davao in a forum held at Marco Polo Hotel last Friday explained the different aspects of cancer cure and also the possible adverse reactions of using herbal medicines while having chemotherapy.

“Before you take something, visit your medical oncologist and show the drugs you are about to take, and not hide it, we are actually not against it, what we want is that you should tell it to us to ensure that it is right medicine and also to avoid danger,” Dr. Omid U. Entemadi said.

He added that very few of herbs and supplements have the evidence to cure cancer, and that there are not enough literature that herbal supplements can replace chemotherapy and radiation.

“But there are few things which can help increase the efficacy and reduce the side effects of conventional treatment,” Entemadi said.

He added that neither FDA or other agencies examine herbal medicines for effectiveness so when the label says its BFAD approved, it only means that it passed the screening for toxic and harmful chemicals.

"The screening ana niya for the very basic things, dili ba siya contaminated ug lead, wala ba siya’y mercury (The screening is very basic, they check if it is contaminated with lead or if it contains mercury)," he said.

Apart from lack of scientific basis for its ability to treat cancer, he added that some herbs can cause negative reactions to chemotherapy agents.

Entemadi gave as one of example the use of grapeseed extract, which inhibits the metabolism of tamoxifen, a drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer. He added that taking many medicines at once can also stress the liver of the patient, as it may focus on the metabolizing the supplements rather than the chemo drugs.

Meanwhile, Dr. Arnold John Uson MD said that every medicine has to pass lots and lots of research work before it can be declared effective in treating cancer.

Uson presented that different of levels of evidence are needed to support claims of treatment.

These treatments should have first reports of cases, animal testing, and randomized controlled double blinded studies, a long course study conducted by the companies other than the company developing the product.

Another oncologist Ellie May Villegas MD said that Xanthone found in mangosteen, are only proven to have health benefits in test tube level and have not passed other tests mentioned by Uson.

Villegas added that people can tell if the cancer treatments are questionable if the proponents claim legitimacy of the effectiveness of the supplement through advertisements without discussing its possible harmful effects.

“You need to talk with a doctor and not just follow the instructions from the television on how to treat your disease,” she said.

She warned of the existence of 'alternative practitioners' who works in isolation and are not affiliated with any hospitals.

Food-Drug Regulation Officer III of the Food and Drug Administration Central Office, Willison John de Luna said they have recorded 126 approved food supplements establishments all over the Philippines. This list excludes those products manufactured abroad.

Luna said that as for the regulating advertisements, he said that currently the FDA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Advertising Standards Council, an independent regulating agency that approves commercials.

He said that while the FDA are just consulted with the content and does not have a hand which advertisement gets broadcasted or not, they urge public to be report to their agency any food supplement with any suspicious claims for investigation. “Any evidence will be, because we are all consumers here even us regulators.

We must be vigilant enough to address these matters,” he said.

De Luna also challenged the public to be much more critical in the information they get.

“What are their evidences, sources and lastly para saan po ba ito. In the end isipin po natin dito ay public health, if this product really has an effect not just to us but to the people who are taking these product,” De Luna added.

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