This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet
"No conclusions about the role, if any, of complementary and alternative treatments in mental health or illness can be accepted with certainty, as very few claims or studies meet acceptable scientific standards," a report on mental health from the Surgeon General states. Released Dec. 13 at a press conference featuring Surgeon General David Satcher, MD/PhD, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Tipper Gore, the report says, "In many cases, preparations are not standardized and consist of a variable mixture of substances, any of which may be the active ingredient(s). Purity, bioavailability, amount and timing of doses...cannot be taken for granted with natural products." However, the report notes several government studies that should help shed light on such products' efficacy are scheduled to begin shortly. A trial of St. John's wort funded by the National Institutes of Health already is underway (1"The Tan Sheet" June 15, 1998, p. 18)
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NIMH ST. JOHN's WORT TRIAL TO USE LICHTWER BOTANICAL in the medication administered to participants randomized to receive active tablets. Patient enrollment is scheduled to begin in October. The eight-week, three-arm clinical trial of Hypericum perforatum first will compare the safety and efficacy of the herbal ingredient against placebo in treating depression ("The Tan Sheet" June 23, 1997, p. 18). Pfizer's Zoloft (sertraline), an Rx selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, will be used in the third arm of the trial to document the study's sensitivity, although the trial will not have sufficient power to compare sertraline and St. John's wort.
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