In the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), approximately 38 percent of adults reported using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the previous 12 months. The CAM component of the NHIS, developed by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), also collected data about CAM costs, including cost of CAM use, frequency of visits made to CAM practitioners, and frequency of purchases of self-care CAM therapies.
- 83 million adults spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on CAM
- CAM costs are 11.2% of total out-of-pocket expenditures on health care
CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally consid-ered part of conventional medicineMedicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degrees and by their allied health professionals such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses..
While scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for many there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies, such as whether these therapies are safe and work for the purposes for which they are used.
The NHIS is an annual survey in which tens of thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health- and illness-related experiences. The 2007 survey included questions on 36 types of CAM therapies commonly used in the United States-10 practitioner-based therapies, such as acupunctureA family of procedures that originated in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body by a variety of techniques, including the insertion of thin metal needles though the skin. It is intended to remove blockages in the flow of qi and restore and maintain health., and 26 other self-care therapies that do not require a provider, such as natural products.
CAM Costs Overall
According to the 2007 NHIS survey, 83 million U.S. adults spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on visits to CAM practitioners and on purchases of CAM products, classes, and materials. In total, there were approximately 354 million visits to CAM practitioners and approximately 835 million purchases.
Figure 1 and Figure 2 Combined
Combined Total Health Care Spending and Out-of-Pocket Spending Graphic
CAM's Part of Total Health Care Costs
At $33.9 billion, CAM accounts for approximately 1.5 percent of total health care expenditures and 11.2 percent of total out-of-pocket expenditures on health care in the United States. See Figure 1 above.
The $14.8 billion spent on nonvitamin, nonmineral, naturalproducts is equivalent to approximately one-third of totalout-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs ($47.6 billion), and the $11.9 billion spent on CAM practitioner visits is equivalentto approximately one-quarter of total out-of-pocket spendingon physician visits ($49.6 billion). See Figure 2 above.
Figure 3 CAM Out-of-Pocket Spending: Self-Care* vs. Practitioner Costs
Figure 4 Out-of-Pocket Costs for Select CAM Therapies*
The mission of NCCIH is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health interventions and their roles in improving health and health care.
To Obtain the Report
The report's citation is:
- Nahin RL, Barnes PM, Stussman BJ, and Bloom B. Costs of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Frequency of Visits to CAM Practitioners: United States, 2007. National health statistics reports; no 18. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.
NCCIH plans to collaborate with NCHS on further analyses of the survey findings. Among the areas of interest to the researchers are dietary supplements and reasons for CAM use. Future reports will be published by NCHS and posted on the NCCIH Web site.
For More Information
The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.