Complementary and Alternative Medicine Heavily Used by African Americans with RA

Complementary and alternative medicine is highly prevalent among African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis, a new study finds.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is highly prevalent among African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a new study finds. The study results were presented earlier this month at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Chicago.

While use of CAM for RA is on the rise in the US, data on use by African Americans is limited. The study’s goal was to determine the prevalence of CAM use by African Americans with RA and to compare the levels of use by those who have had RA for more or less than two years.

The researchers looked at self-reported data on CAM use at enrollment from the CLEAR (Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluation of African Americans with early RA) registry. Of 855 patients enrolled, 85% were female and 418 (49%) had been diagnosed with RA within two years.

Among patients who had had RA for more than two years, 96% had engaged in CAM activities, 99% had undergone CAM treatments, and 51% had gone to CAM providers. Among patients who had RA for less than two years, the corresponding rates were 94%, 97%, and 51%. The most common CAM treatment was heat (80%); the most common activity was praying or attending religious services (92%); and the most commonly accessed providers were religious leaders (32%). Among the other CAM treatments included in the study were using fish oils, raisins soaked in gin, household oils, gelatin, garlic, magnets, special jewelry, and alcohol.