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Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States
more vitamin or mineral supplements; (2) 14 percent of the population had taken herbals and supplements during the previous week; and (3) among prescription drug users, 16 percent also took an herbal or supplement. Tables 9-1 and 9-2 summarize data on the most common supplements consumed by the American public. One shift in supplement usage is instructive. The use of St. John’s wort declined significantly between 2000 and 2001. A plausible reason for this is the negative attention that this herbal medicine received in both scientific journals and the popular press (Piscitelli et al., 2000; Shelton et al., 2001). To the extent that this is true, it demonstrates that the American public is responsive to reports of adverse events and scientific evidence involving the safety and efficacy of supplements as well as product adulteration disseminated in the press. Market sensitivity to scientific reports as well as drug advertisements related to CAM therapies need to be further examined, as they have for conventional medicine.
The American public’s views on the federal regulation of dietary supplements are also instructive. Blendon et al. (2001) reported on Americans’ views on dietary supplements determined in multiple randomized surveys, each with a sample size of greater than 1,000, performed from 1996 to 1999. The investigators found that approximately half (48 percent) of all American adults surveyed reported that they regularly take some type of nonprescription vitamin or dietary or mineral supplement. One in six (16 to 18 percent) reported that they regularly use dietary supplements, such as echinacea, ginseng, amino acids, or nonprescription hormones. Respondents with higher levels of education reported greater use than those with
TABLE 9-1 Ten Most Commonly Used Vitamins/Minerals and Herbal Supplements