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November 18, 1998

Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine

Author Affiliations

Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

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

To the Editor.—Among the questions addressed in the study by Dr Astin1 on reasons patients use alternative medicine are matters relating to quality of care, trust and confidence in physicians, and expectations that physicians will do what is best. Conspicuously absent is any question along the lines of "Has conventional treatment worked for you?" I grant that Astin did not set out to test efficacy as one of his primary hypotheses, but as a patient I would say that the question of efficacy is the most important determinant of my satisfaction with any form of treatment. My initial presumption would be that patients in general would not part with good money unless they felt they were getting better results outside conventional health care. It would be interesting to know why the author rejected this obvious question in favor of a more roundabout approach. Any conclusions about patients' (dis)satisfaction surely must be substantially weakened by this omission.

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