Stakeholder Perceptions of Complementary and Integrative Medicines from People Living with Rare Diseases in Northern Ireland: A Mixed Methods Study

Ashleen Laura Crowe, Katie Kerr, Helen McAneney, Julie McMullan, Gavin Duffy, Amy Jayne McKnight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Only 5% of rare diseases have an approved treatment available, therefore patients often utilise complementary and integrative medicines (CIMs) to help manage their condition. Limited high-quality evidencebased studies are available which support the effectiveness of CIM, as it is difficult to show that an outcome is a direct result of the CIM intervention and not due to bias. Patients and healthcare professionals must weigh up the evidence quality, safety, efficacy, practical logistics, and financial implications of utilising CIM for rare diseases. This study aimed to elucidate perspectives of stakeholders (individuals with rare diseases, carers, family members, CIM practitioners and healthcare professionals), on the usage of CIM for rare diseases across Northern Ireland. Methods: This was a mixed methods study. An online survey was open from January to February 2019 (n = 29 responses). Themes identified from the survey were then discussed with stakeholders in a semi-structured discussion workshop in March 2019. Results: A limited number of participants responded to the survey (n = 29). Some individuals with rare diseases reported CIM as effective in the management of their condition, in particular acupuncture, dietary supplements, herbal medicines, homoeopathy, hydrotherapy, kinesiology mindfulness, pilates, reflexology, tai chi, and yoga. However, a number of respondents (n = 7) experienced a negative side effect from CIM. Workshop participants raised concerns over the lack of information available about CIM and rare disease. Both the survey and workshop identified inequality of access with participants reporting CIM to be expensive. Conclusions: More information, high-quality research, and education about CIM are required for patients and healthcare professionals to help make informed decisions about the usage of CIM for rare diseases. Improved communication, information, and health and social care in general would help individuals be more confident and knowledgeable about therapeutic options in relation to their rare disease(s).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-115
Number of pages9
JournalComplementary Medicine Research
Issue number2
Early online date5 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 5 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s).


  • Communication
  • Complementary and integrative medicines
  • Rare disease


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