Research: BRIGGS and NAHIN,

Listed in Issue 162


BRIGGS and  NAHIN, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM), NIH, Bethesda, MD conducted a national health survey in 2007 regarding expenditure for complementary and alternative medicines in the USA.


Overall out-of-pocket expenditures for complementary and alternative medicines accounted for 1.5% of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care during the year prior to the survey.


The estimate was based on responses to a national health survey conducted in 2007 by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).


Americans spend almost a third as much money out-of pocket on herbal supplements and other alternative medicines as they do on prescription drugs. Out-of-pocket spending on herbal supplements, chiropractic visits, meditation, and other forms of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) was estimated at $34 billion in a single year. In 2007, 38 million adults made an estimated 354 million visits to CAM practitioners, at an estimated cost of almost $12 billion dollars. Two-thirds of the out-of-pocket spending was for treatments that did not involve a practitioner, such as over-the-counter herbal therapies and other therapies, classes and materials. About $12 billion was spent on visits to practitioners such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, and homeopathic specialists. The biggest single expenditure was for non-vitamin, non-mineral herbal supplements and other products (almost $15 billion) followed by practitioner visits ($12 billion), stretching and meditation-related classes such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong ($4 billion), homeopathic medicines ($2.9 billion) and relaxation techniques ($0.2 billion).


Currently in the United States, about 38 percent of adults are using CAM for health and to treat a variety of issues. Of the 34 billion dollars people spent for CAM services, an estimated 22 billion dollars was spent on self-care costs such as herbs and nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products like fish oil and Echinacea. Visits to acupuncturists, massage therapists, and chiropractors was attributed to more than half of the money spent on self-care - about 11.9 billion dollars.


Briggs JP and Nahin RL. Cost of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Frequency of Visits to CAM Practitioners. NCAAM/CDC Report. 2007

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