Multi-purpose databases generally concentrate information collection upon prescription medicines. Over-the-counter (OTC) and alternative medicines are excluded or dealt with in a nonstandard manner. Whilst OTC medicines usually have been reviewed in detail when they were prescription medicines, the same cannot be said for alternative medicines such as herbal and homeopathic preparations. Many of these have been found to be associated with serious health hazards in the past and some have also been found to interact with prescription medicines. We need some method other than relying solely on spontaneous reporting systems to be reassured that these preparations are indeed as safe as we believe them to be. The resulting system need not be as all embracing as the large databases; however, the work needs to be done and done both rapidly and cost-efficiently in the near future.
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