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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 substantially enhances our understanding of the reasons patients use alternative medicine. However, it is not clear how representative the study population (a panel of individuals who agreed to participate in mail surveys) is of the general US population. It is possible that this panel comprised a small and atypical fraction of the general population. In addition, although income was not a significant predictor in the multivariate analysis, this and other population-based surveys24 have found that those with lower incomes are less likely to use alternative medicine. This point raises an issue not addressed in this article: cost may limit access to alternative treatments (as it does to other medical services not typically covered by insurance), at least for the poorest segment of society.

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