Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use for pediatric asthma is increasing. The authors of previous studies linked CAM use with decreased adherence to conventional asthma medicines; however, these studies were limited by cross-sectional design. Our objective was to assess the effect of starting CAM on pediatric adherence with daily asthma medications.
We used a retrospective cohort study design. Telephone surveys were administered to caregivers of patients with asthma annually from 2004 to 2007. Dependent variables were percent missed doses per week and a previously validated “Medication Adherence Scale score.” Independent variables included demographic factors, caregiver perception of asthma control, and initiation of CAM for asthma. We used multivariate linear regression to assess the relationship between medication adherence and previous initiation of CAM.
From our longitudinal data set of 1322 patients, we focused on 187 children prescribed daily medications for all 3 years of our study. Patients had high rates of adherence. The mean percent missed asthma daily controller medication doses per week was 7.7% (SD = 14.2%). Medication Adherence Scale scores (range: 4–20, with lower scores reflecting higher adherence) had an overall mean of 7.5 (SD = 2.9). In multivariate analyses, controlling for demographic factors and asthma severity, initiation of CAM use was not associated with subsequent adherence (P > .05).
The data from this study suggest that CAM use is not necessarily “competitive” with conventional asthma therapies; families may incorporate different health belief systems simultaneously in their asthma management. As CAM use becomes more prevalent, it is important for physicians to ask about CAM use in a nonjudgmental fashion.