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Chiropractic Research Review

More Evidence that the Use of Alternative Medicine Is Increasing

Between 1990 and 1997, there was a significant upward trend in the use of alternative medicine in the United States. In terms of the proportion of the population utilizing alternative therapies, total visits to alternative medicine practitioners, and expenditures for professional services (including out-of-pocket payments), the absolute numbers and percentage increases were persuasively substantial.

In America, organized medicine's recognition of the important implications of this trend was signaled by the fact that in November 1998 many publications of the AMA featured studies on alternative medicine.

The AMA's flagship publication, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), contained numerous original contributions, reviews, letters, and editorials focused on the character and efficacy of various alternative treatments and what Americans widening reliance on alternative medicine means to the future of health care.

The centerpiece of the JAMA alternative medicine issue was a representative random household national telephone survey by Dr. David Eisenberg and his colleagues. This 1997 study was a follow-up to their landmark 1991 survey. Both studies measured patterns of utilization of alternative medical therapies, which were operationally defined as "interventions neither taught widely in medical schools nor generally available in U.S. hospitals."

The increase in alternative medicine use and expenditures was nothing short of dramatic. Not only were far higher percentages of people seeking alternative care and vastly greater sums being spent on alternative treatments in 1997 than in 1990, but visits to alternative practitioners numbered 629 million-more than the total visits to all U.S. primary care physicians.

The conclusions were inescapable:
image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
alternative medicine in all its forms must be taken more seriously and must be studied and understood better. In a powerful statement the authors conclude:

In light of these observations we suggest that federal agencies, private corporations, foundations, and academic institutions adopt a more proactive posture concerning the implementation of clinical and basic science research, the development of relevant educational curricula, credentialing and referral guidelines, improved quality control of dietary supplements and the establishment of postmarket surveillance of drug-herb (and drug-supplement) interactions.

Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, et al. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997. Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 11, 1998;280(18), pp1569-75.

Chiropractic Research Review

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