Australians spend almost $3 billion a year on complementary therapies and vitamins, an amount similar to that spent on prescription medications, new figures suggest.
A population survey of more than 2000 individuals across the country found that 50% used complementary medicines, most frequently vitamin and mineral supplements.
The average expenditure for a person using complementary products was $87 a year on vitamin/mineral supplements, $11 on herbal medicine products and $7 on homeopathy products.
When extrapolated to the Australian population, the estimated national expenditure on complementary products was $2.96 billion, as compared to $3.0 billion for out of pocket expenses on prescription -only pharmaceuticals and $1.3 billion on over the counter medicines.
Within the complementary medicines, the estimated national expenditure was $2.14 billion on vitamin and mineral supplements, $277 million on herbal medicines and $174 on homeopathy.
Researchers from the School of Pharmacy at Sydney University, said their findings tallied with annual sales figures of $4.7 billion reported by the Complementary Medicine Association of Australia.
And as in previous surveys, complementary medicine use was highest among women, people in full-time employment and those with higher levels of education.
The study found that more than 80% of people taking complementary products were also using prescription medicines, and 18% did not reveal their use of complementary products to their doctor.
The researchers said that since most CM products were accessed through pharmacy outlets, “further developments within the profession are required to help encourage complementary medicine product users to discuss such use with their pharmacist.”
The findings are published in BMJ Open.