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November 18, 1998

Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;280(19):1659-1661. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-19-jbk1118

To the Editor.—The article by Dr Astin1 and most studies of alternative medicine are based on the article about prevalence of alternative medicine use by Eisenberg et al.2 In that report, alternative medicine was defined as interventions neither taught widely in US medical schools nor generally available in US hospitals. However, that definition of alternative medicine is vague,3 and the study was limited to only 16 common alternative therapies. A revised classification proposed by Gordon4 also was based on the report by Eisenberg et al.2 The report by MacLennan et al5 from Australia also is based on an unclear definition of alternative medicine. If the definition and classification of alternative medicine are vague, then the results of studies based on these are difficult to interpret.

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