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Report indicates Americans spend about $34 billion annually on CAM.

USA Today (7/31, Szabo) reports that, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, “while Americans may complain about the high cost of healthcare, they’re still willing to shell out roughly $34 billion a year out-of-pocket on alternative therapies that aren’t covered by insurance.” Josephine Briggs, of the NIH, said that “the results…show why it’s important for researchers to conduct rigorous scientific studies of alternative therapies.”

The AP (7/31, Marchione, Stobbe) reports, “The data, gathered in 2007 mostly before the recession was evident, don’t clearly reflect whether the economy played a role in spending on these therapies.” But, Briggs pointed out that “there has been ‘speculation that as the number of uninsured grows, there may be increased utilization of some of these approaches, which tend to be relatively inexpensive.'” The findings are “based on a…survey by the [CDC] of more than 23,000 adults nationwide.” While the current report does not cover “vitamins and minerals,” they “will be addressed in a future one.”

Complimentary and alternative medicine, otherwise known as CAM, “includes medical practices and products…which are not part of conventional medicine,” HealthDay (7/30, Reinberg) reported. These therapies are sought by Americans mainly “for pain relief and to contribute to their health and well-being,” noted Briggs. She added that researchers aimed to “find out which areas of CAM warrant research by the [NIH],” and that Americans were surveyed “without regard as to whether any of these alternative or complementary approaches actually work.”

In the Los Angeles Times (7/30) Booster Shots blog, Shari Roan noted that “about 38 percent of the adults surveyed said they had used some form of CAM for preventative health purposes or to treat a disease or condition.” These therapies comprise “just 1.5 percent of US healthcare expenditures,” researchers found, but they account “for 11.2 percent of total out-of-pocket expenditures.”

Of total expenditures, “about $22 billion of that was for products, including classes, materials, and non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products, such as fish oil, glucosamine, and echinacea,” Rob Stein wrote in the Washington Post (7/30) Checkup blog. Of that amount, “$14.8 billion…was for the supplements,” while “$11.9 billion was for an estimated 354.2 million visits to acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and other CAM practitioners.”