Americans Spending More on Alternative Medicine
In 2007, Americans spent $34 billion on alternative medicine, up from $27 billion in 2007, and it makes up more than 10% of consumer spending on health care. More than one third of American adults use alternative medicine. Alternative medicine includes things such as herbalism, diet-based therapies and yoga.
Dr. Josephine Briggs, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, says that more research is needed to determine which therapies are effective, since some of them may actually be harmful. She also noted that as the number of uninsured Americans increases, the use of alternative medicines increases, since they often offer a less expensive alternative to prescription medication or medical treatment.
$3 billion was spent on homeopathy. Homeopathy treats disease through small doses of substances that would produce symptoms in healthy people if taken in larger amounts.
Over a third of spending on alternative medicine went to massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment mostly for relief of pain. The most common supplements used were glucosamine for joint pain and fish oil to reduce the risk of heart disease. Supplements do not need FDA approval for safety or effectiveness to go on the market, although many consumers believe they do.
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