Americans spend $34 billion annually on alternative medicine

September 4, 2009
Morgan Lewis Jr.
Morgan Lewis Jr.

Adults in the United States spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on visits to "complementary and alternative medicine" practitioners and purchases of alternative health products in 2007.

Adults in the United States spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on visits to "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) practitioners and purchases of alternative health products in 2007, up from $27 billion in 1997, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Although more than 38 million adults made an estimated 354.2 million visits to alternative medicine practitioners, nearly two-thirds of the total out-of-pocket costs were for self-care products, classes, and materials during 2007 ($22 billion), compared with about one-third spent on practitioner visits ($11.9 billion, down slightly from $12.2 billion in 1997).

"This [report] underscores the importance of conducting rigorous research and providing evidence-based information on CAM so that healthcare providers and the public can make well-informed decisions," says Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.