Is it a human right to be aware of safer alternatives to drugs for respiratory health

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Alternatives to Drugs: Asthma

While no one should stop taking a drug they’ve been prescribed for asthma, unless first consulting a health care practitioner, a recent article in the British Medical Journal highlights the urgent need to tell patients with more prominent warnings on the packet of the risks of taking montelukast (Singulair), an oral treatment for asthma, as recommended by the drug regulator (MHRA).
 
The risks associated with montelukast include serious behaviour and neuropsychiatric reactions, including sleep disorders, hallucinations, anxiety and depression, and changes in behaviour and mood. This example highlights the presence of serious side-effects of commonly used drugs, and raises the question, are there safer alternatives?
 
There are safe plant medicines, that have been used by humans for centuries, that carry the same efficacy as drugs but carry fewer side-effects. Only a select few of these plant medicines have been studied in controlled clinical studies. For example in patients with bronchial asthma there are plant medicines that safely decrease airway resistance and improve forced expiratory volume. These plant medicines include dried Ivy Leaf Extract (read more here), a plant medicine commonly used clinically and available in pharmacies in Europe for a wide range of respiratory disorders, and one we include in our Respiratory Tincture. A gold standard clinical trial found Ivy Leaf to be as effective as the drug Ambroxol for treating the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. Other plant medicines for respiratory health studied in controlled clinical trials include Tamarind Tylophora indica, Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba and Mahuang Ephedra sinica, amongst several other Traditional Chinese medicines. Ephedra sinica has been compared with oral salbutamol and inhaled Beclomethasone and found as effective.
 
There is an urgent need for more controlled clinical trials of such plant medicines that show the same efficacy as drugs, because they show fewer side effects. This should be a high on any medical research and dispensing professionals list, and not least to give patient choice.

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