The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    CAM in the US: Patterns of use

    I’ve largely ignored these studies in the past, but perhaps it’s worth a second look.

    To start, this 1993 study by Dr. David Eisenberg, who is now the director of Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard University, is considered a landmark in the field of “unconventional medicine.”

    First, the details.

    • A national survey was conducted to determine the prevalence, costs, and patterns of use of unconventional therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic.
    • The survey included 16 commonly used CAMs neither taught widely in US medical schools nor generally available in US hospitals.
    • Telephone interviews were conducted with 1539 adults.
    • Respondents were asked to report any serious or bothersome medical conditions and details of their use of conventional medical services.

    And, the results.

    • 34% used at least 1 unconventional therapy in the past year.
    • Most commonly used CAM:
      • Exercise: 26%
      • Prayer: 25%
      • Relaxation: 13%
      • Chiropractic: 10%
      • Massage: 7%
      • Imagery: 4%
      • Spiritual healing: 4%
      • Commercial weight loss program: 4%
      • Lifestyle diets (eg, macrobiotics): 4%
      • Herbal medicine: 3%
      • Megavitamin therapy: 2%
      • Self-help: 2%
      • Energy: 1%
      • Biofeedback: 1%
      • Hypnosis: 1%
      • Homeopathy: 1%
      • Acupuncture: less than 1%
      • Folk remedies: less than 1%
    • A third of CAM users saw CAM providers an average of 19 times during the preceding year.
    • The average charge per visit: $28.
    • Highest use was among nonblack persons from 25 to 49 years old with more education and higher incomes.
    • Most used unconventional therapy for chronic medical conditions.
    • 72% of the respondents who used unconventional therapy did not inform their medical doctor.
    • Extrapolation to the US. population:
      • 425 million visits to CAM providers — exceeding the number of visits to all US primary care physicians (388 million).
      • Expenditures associated with CAM: $14 billion, three quarters ($10 billion) paid out of pocket.
      • Comparable to  $13 billion spent out of pocket annually for all hospitalizations in the US.

    The bottom line?

    2 decades ago, a third of Americans used CAM.

    As new studies are published, we’ll see how more recent data compare.

    5/24/10 18:11 JR

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