- 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.