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J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):591-5. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0404.

Review of economic methods used in complementary medicine.

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  • 1National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



The purpose of this research is to review the economic methods used in complementary medicine (CM).


A comprehensive literature review was undertaken (1995-2007) to identify peer-reviewed articles related to economic methods used in CM.


The literature found 15 full economic evaluations of CM: 3 in the manipulative and body-based practices, 5 in the whole medical systems, and 7 in the biologically based practices. No evaluations were identified for the areas of mind-body medicine, alternative medical systems, or energy medicine. The review failed to locate any articles that used alternate economic methods such as contingent valuation or discrete choice modelling. The overall consensus from the 15 economic evaluations, despite variations in project design and methodological rigor, was that CM, as evaluated in these studies, was cost-effective compared to usual care.


As health care costs continue to rise, decision makers, both consumers and policymakers, must allocate scarce resources toward those treatments that offer the best value for the money. Considerable scope exists to advance the science behind CM through a more systematic integration of economic methods into CM research.

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