Americans Now Spending
$27 Billion On Alternative Remedies
WASHINGTON (AFP) --Four out of 10 Americans use alternative medicine, mainly to treat chronic conditions, and spent a staggering $27 billion on such therapies last year, according to researchers.
But only 40 percent of patients tell their doctors about their use of alternative therapies, and an estimated 15 million Americans took prescription drugs and herbal remedies concurrently in 1997, David Eisenberg and colleagues from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found.
Millions of such people may be at risk for potential, unintended interactions involving prescription medications and herbs or high-dose vitamins, Eisenberg said in the Journal of the American Medical Association published Tuesday.
As part of their study of trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, the researchers compared results from a 1997 telephone survey of 2,055 adults with those of a similar 1990 survey of 1,539 adults.
Between 1990 and 1997, use of alternative medicine jumped by 25 percent, with the total number of visits up 47 percent from an estimated 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997.
This compared with a total of 386 million visits to all primary care physicians in the United States in 1997).
Total out-of-pocket expenditures for alternative therapies in 1997, including professional services, herbal products, vitamins, diet products, books and classes, were conservatively estimated to be 27 billion dollars, the researchers said.
Their survey centered on the use of 16 alternative therapies, including relaxation techniques, herbal medicine, massage, chiropractic, spiritual healing by others, megavitamins, self-help, imagery, commercial diet, folk, lifestyle diet, energy healing, homeopathy, hypnosis, biofeedback and acupuncture.
In both the 1990 and 1997 surveys, respondents reported using alternative medicine mostly for chronic conditions, including back and neck problems, anxiety, arthritis and headaches.
Usage was found to be more prevalent among women (48.9 percent) than among men (37.8 percent) and less so among blacks (33.1 percent) than other racial groups (44.5 percent).
Therapies of choice were found to involve herbal medicine, massage, megavitamins, self-help groups, folk remedies, energy healing and homeopathy.