|Older Americans Not Discussing Complementary
and Alternative Medicine Use with Doctors
In spite of the high use of complementary and alternative medicine
(CAM) among people age 50 or older, 69 percent of those who use
CAM do not talk to their doctors about it, according to a new survey
conducted by AARP and the National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health.
The survey examined conversations between patients and their physicians
regarding CAM use.
CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices,
and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional
medicine. It includes such products and practices as herbal supplements,
meditation, homeopathy, and acupuncture.
“We know that people 50 and older tend to be high users of complementary
and alternative medicine, but this study was the first to explore
gaps in communications regarding the use of CAM between patients
and their physicians,” said Cheryl Matheis, AARP Director of Health
Strategies. “Communication is important to ensure the wise use
of all conventional and CAM therapies.”
Differences in communication practices across demographic groups
were also found. Women were more likely than men to have discussed
CAM use (26 percent versus 16 percent) and what types of therapies
to use (70 percent versus 51 percent). In addition, people with
incomes of $75,000 or more (31 percent) or $25,000 to $49,999 (25
percent) frequently discussed CAM use with doctors.
“An open dialogue between consumers and their physicians is critical
to ensuring safe and appropriate integrated care,” said Margaret
A. Chesney, Ph.D., NCCAM’s Deputy Director. “As the Federal Government’s
lead agency for scientific research on CAM, NCCAM is especially
committed to educating both consumers and health care providers
about the importance of discussing the use of CAM and providing
evidence-based information to help with health care decision-making.”
This telephone survey, administered to a nationally representative
group of 1,559 people age 50 or older, revealed some reasons why
doctor-patient dialogue is lacking. Respondents most often did
not discuss their CAM use with doctors because the physicians never
asked (42 percent); they did not know that they should (30 percent);
or there was not enough time during the office visit (19 percent).
Interestingly, men who had seen a doctor were more likely than
women not to have discussed CAM because their doctors never asked
(46 percent versus 38 percent).
Other highlights from the survey report include:
For a complete copy of the survey report, please visit http://www.aarp.org/research/health/prevention/cam_2007.html.
Tips for Discussing CAM with Your Doctor:
- If you are considering a CAM therapy, ask your physician about
its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medications
(prescription and non-prescription).
- Tell your doctor about all therapies or treatments including
over-the-counter and prescription medicines as well as herbal
and dietary supplements.
- When completing patient history forms, be sure to include all
therapies and treatments you use. Make a list in advance.
Medline Plus – Alternative Medicine: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alternativemedicine.html
Medline Plus – Herbs and Supplements: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/herb_All.html
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/
NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine: www.cancer.gov/cam/
NIA Age Page on Dietary Supplements: www.niapublications.org/agepages/supplements.asp
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s
mission is to explore complementary and alternative medical practices
in the context of rigorous science, train CAM researchers, and
disseminate authoritative information to the public and professionals.
For additional information, call NCCAM’s Clearinghouse toll free
at 1-888-644-6226, or visit www.nccam.nih.gov.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that
helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways
that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole.
We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP
Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud,
our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn,
our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP.org.
AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security,
protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support
from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed
offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico,
and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health
and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.