According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), approximately 38 percent of American adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The 2007 NHIS data also reveal that in the past 12 months, Americans spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on CAM products and services, accounting for 11.2 percent of total out-of-pocket expenditures on health care.
Of the $33.9 billion spent on CAM, an estimated $22.0 billion was spent on self-care—CAM products, classes, and materials; the largest share ($14.8 billion) was spent on nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products such as fish oil, glucosamine, and echinacea. The $14.8 billion spent on nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products is equivalent to approximately one-third of total out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs. In addition, U.S. adults spent approximately $11.9 billion on more than 354 million visits to CAM practitioners such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, and massage therapists, which is equivalent to about one-quarter of total out-of-pocket spending on physician visits.
These data indicate that Americans make millions of visits to CAM practitioners each year and spend billions of dollars for these services and for natural products and other forms of CAM self-care. While these expenditures represent just a small fraction of total health care spending in the United States (1.5 percent), they constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health care costs.
- 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. (200KB PDF)