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    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Patients Spend $34 Billion on Alternative Medicines

    ‘Patients in the U.S. spent about $34 billion on complementary and alternative medicine in 2007, according to a government report,” says Kristina Fiore of MedPage Today, commenting on Nahin RL, et al "Costs of complementary and alternative medicine and frequency of visits to CAM practitioners: United States, 2007" National Health Statistics Report 2009; 18.

    About two-thirds of those out-of-pocket expenditures went to self-care items, including yoga classes and "natural" products, Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, of the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues said. Complimentary and alternative medicine, otherwise known as CAM, "includes medical practices and products...which are not part of conventional medicine. These therapies are sought by Americans mainly "for pain relief and to contribute to their health and well-being

    The findings, reported in a National Center for Health Statistics brief, are consistent with other evidence that the use of self-care therapies has increased, while fewer Americans are going to complementary and alternative medicine professionals.

    The researchers said that the 354 million visits to complementary medicine practitioners in 2007 -- the latest year for which figures are available -- marked a drop of about 50% over 1997 numbers.

    The biggest decrease came among visits to practitioners of energy-healing therapies and relaxation techniques, the researchers said.
    Visits to acupuncturists, however, increased over the 10-year period, likely because more states now license the practice.
    "Natural products" not including vitamins or minerals accounted for the biggest chunk of self-care spending at $14.8 billion (44%) of total complementary medicine out-of-pocket expenditures.

    Practitioners of complementary medicine took in a total of $11.9 billion and $7.2 billion was spent for classes, homeopathic medicines, and relaxation techniques.
    The $34 billion spent on complementary and alternatives medicines is a small slice of the total $2.2 trillion spent on healthcare in 2007, and accounts for 11.2% of total out-of pocket spending.

    A total of $49.6 billion out-of-pocket was spent on physician visits and $47.6 billion went to prescription drugs.
    The findings were based on the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included questions on 36 types of complementary medicine therapies. The researchers said the study may have been limited by potential recall bias because of patient self-report.

    Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, said the findings "underscore the importance of conducting rigorous research and providing evidence-based information on complementary and alternative medicines so that healthcare providers and the public can make informed decisions."


    USA Today (7/31, Szabo) reports that, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, "while Americans may complain about the high cost of healthcare, they're still willing to shell out roughly $34 billion a year out-of-pocket on alternative therapies that aren't covered by insurance." Josephine Briggs, of the NIH, said that "the why it's important for researchers to conduct rigorous scientific studies of alternative therapies."

    The AP (7/31, Marchione, Stobbe) reports, "The data, gathered in 2007 mostly before the recession was evident, don't clearly reflect whether the economy played a role in spending on these therapies." But, Briggs pointed out that "there has been 'speculation that as the number of uninsured grows, there may be increased utilization of some of these approaches, which tend to be relatively inexpensive.'" The findings are "based on a...survey by the [CDC] of more than 23,000 adults nationwide." While the current report does not cover "vitamins and minerals," they "will be addressed in a future one."

    Complimentary and alternative medicine, otherwise known as CAM, "includes medical practices and products...which are not part of conventional medicine. These therapies are sought by Americans mainly "for pain relief and to contribute to their health and well-being.

    She added that researchers aimed to "find out which areas of CAM warrant research by the [NIH]," and that Americans were surveyed "without regard as to whether any of these alternative or complementary approaches actually work."

    In the Los Angeles Times (7/30) Booster Shots blog, Shari Roan noted that "about 38 percent of the adults surveyed said they had used some form of CAM for preventative health purposes or to treat a disease or condition." Of total expenditures, "about $22 billion of that was for products, including classes, materials and non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products such as fish oil, glucosamine and Echinacea," Rob Stein wrote in the Washington Post (7/30) Checkup blog. Of that amount "$14.8 billion...was for the supplements," while "$11.9 billion was for an estimated 354.2 million visits to acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and other CAM practitioners."

    WebMD (7/30, Boyles) reported, however, that "newly published survey was so different from" data published in 1997 "that researchers were hesitant to compare them." Still, "the data suggest that adults in the US made half as many visits to CAM practitioners in 2007 as they did in 1997, a decline from roughly three visits for every 1,000 adults to 1.5 visits." But, "visits to acupuncturists increased from 27 visits per 1,000 adults in 1997 to 79 visits per 1,000 adults in 2007." The report stated that this increase "may be in part due to the greater number of states that license this practice and a corresponding increase in the number of licensed practitioners in well as increased coverage for these therapies." The Wall Street Journal (7/30) Health Blog, the Baltimore Sun (7/31, Brewington) Picture of Health blog, and Reuters (7/31) also covered the story.

    Research article
    Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth mimicking acute flare as a pitfall in patients with Crohn's Disease
    Jochen Klaus , Ulrike Spaniol , Guido Adler , Richard A Mason , Max Reinshagen and Christian von Tirpitz C
    BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9:61doi:10.1186/1471-230X-9-61

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    For any treatment of your own medical condition you must visit your local doctor, with or without our article[s]. These articles are not to be taken as individual medical advice.


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