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Australian adults use complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of chronic illness: a national study

Authors

  • Andrew R. Armstrong,

    1. National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), University of Canberra, Australian National Territory and Saint-Louis Hospital, Dept. Clinical Research (PRO Unit), Paris, France
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  • Sophie P. Thiébaut,

    1. National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), University of Canberra, Australian National Territory and Inserm SE4S, Marseille, France
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  • Laurie J. Brown,

    1. National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), University of Canberra, Australian National Territory
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  • Binod Nepal

    1. National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), University of Canberra, Australian National Territory
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Correspondence to:
Dr Andrew Armstrong, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT 2617; e-mail: andrew74.psy@gmail.com

Abstract

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to identify the prevalence of the use of vitamin/mineral supplements or natural/herbal remedies, concurrent use of pharmaceutical medication, and to profile those most likely to use these complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) in the treatment of five chronic conditions identified as national health priorities (asthma, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart or circulatory condition) within the Australian adult population.

Methods: Analysis of the Australian National Health Survey database, 2004–05.

Results: Approximately 24% (1.3 million) of Australian adults with a chronic condition regularly applied CAM to treatment. CAM was most often used exclusively or in combination with pharmaceutical medicine in the treatment of arthritis and osteoporosis. Fewer than 10% of adults with asthma, diabetes or a heart or circulatory condition used CAM, most preferring pharmaceutical medicine. Regular CAM users were more likely to be aged ≥60, female, have a secondary school education and live in households with lower incomes than non-users. Non-users were more likely to be 30–59 years old and tertiary educated.

Conclusion and implications: Arthritis, osteoporosis and, to a lesser extent, heart or circulatory conditions are illnesses for which doctors should advise, and patients need to be most aware about the full effects of CAM and possible interactive effects with prescribed medicine. They are also conditions for which research into the interactive effects of CAM and pharmaceutical medication would seem of most immediate benefit.

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