Billions spent annually on complementary, alternative therapies

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 17, 2009

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Patients shelled out approximately $33.9 billion to pay for complementary and alternative medicine in 2007. The money accounted for 1.5% of all health care expenditures and 11.2% of out-of-pocket costs, according to a national health statistics report issued July 30 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (link).

"While these expenditures represent just a small fraction of total health care spending in the United States, they constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health costs," said Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, the paper's lead author and acting director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's Division of Extramural Research.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. About $22 billion was spent on complementary and alternative medicine classes and products. Another $11.9 billion was spent to receive these types of services from various professionals.

Authors said that this report highlights the need to research these therapies further.

"With so many Americans using and spending money on [complementary and alternative medicine] therapies, it is extremely important to know whether the products and practices they use are safe and effective," said Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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