Question: 20 years ago, my urologist recommended that I take saw palmetto (my father has prostate cancer). But my new doctor says it doesn’t do anything to help the prostate. What do you think?
Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
What your urologist told you 20 years ago may have had some scientific backing then, and some still find this agent helps them, despite little evidence to support its recommendation for all. Your new doctor is correct to inform you that the evidence is slim to absent, and most of us would prefer to not waste our money on therapies with little, if any, benefit.
That being said, if you have had improvement using this agent, who can argue with success?
Our bodies are all different, and some alternative therapies are more effective for some people than others. But keep in mind that prescription agents are required by the Food and Drug Administration to meet certain quality and effective standards in order to be approved. But no saw palmetto agents are approved for therapeutic use by the FDA, and many doctors well advise their patients to steer clear of ineffective or partially effective agents when better choices are available.
Complementary therapies can unfortunately sometimes cause drug interactions and negative side effects. So you should always talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter remedies, diet supplements, or vitamins. Such agents are also treatments and may have serious and sometimes critical interactions with prescription medications.
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