New data shows that almost 75% of older Australians take some sort of dietary supplement or complementary medicine, leading to fears that they could prioritize supplements over prescribed medication.
The report in the Medical Journal of Australia uses research from the ASPREE Longitudinal Study of Older Persons (ALSOP) Study, which “[investigates] additional factors that may have a major influence on health, independence and quality of life as we grow older”.
According to the study, 24.7% of people over the age of 70 took calcium supplements either daily or occasionally, 26.7% took glucosamine, 33.8% took Vitamin D and 44.5% took fish oil.
The concern for research lies in the overpromotion of these products to people who they will not benefits. Professor Paul Glaszious, director of the Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare at Bond University told the Guardian that “the promoting of these things to people who are getting no benefit from it but are paying for it and maybe not getting an effective treatment that they would otherwise get, is borderline unethical”.
According to the Medical Journal of Australia, more than half the people in Australia use complementary medicines and in 2019, spent $5.2 billion on out of pocket health expenses. More worryingly, the information about the use of complementary medicines by older adults is over a decade old.
The Journal wrote that, “given subsequent demographic changes and doubling in sales of vitamins and supplements, we should update our knowledge in this area”.
One of the report’s authors, Dr Alice Owen, told the Guardian that one of her concerns was people “in constrained financial circumstances” choosing “a complementary medicine over a prescribed medicine”.