Annual U.S. tab for alternative medicine hits $34 billion

When NIH established its National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, some people in the traditional medical community thought it was a waste of time or worse, an endorsement of unorthodox or even dangerous practices. Over time, it's become clear that whether traditional providers like it or not, consumers take these service seriously.

The latest statistics from the National Center show that U.S. adults spent $33.9 billion out of pocket on visits to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners in 2007, along with purchase of CAM products, classes and materials.

Of that $33.9 billion, about $22 billion was spent on self-care items, including non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products ($14.8 billion) such as fish oil, glucosamine and echinacea. U.S. adults also spent about $11.9 billion on about 354.2 million visit to CAM practitioners like chiropractors and massage therapists.

These figures put CAM spending at about 1.5 percent of the total $2.2 trillion in healthcare expenditures made that year, and 11.2 percent of out of pocket healthcare expenditures in the U.S.

To learn more about this data:
- read this NIH press release