Background. How much money might cancer patients be spending on-line for nutrition-based complementary and alternative medicine therapies? This question is relevant because over $34 billion per year is spent on complementary and alternative medicine in the United States, and the Internet has facilitated the acquisition of such therapies. Methods. We therefore conducted a "patient simulation exercise" in which the Internet was surfed for nutrition-based therapies, which were touted as therapeutic or palliative in the cancer setting. Monthly costs for each agent were calculated. Agents with clinical evidence of efficacy were excluded. Results. A search of 2,500 Web sites and related pages revealed a total of 16 different products. The monthly cost of each ranged from to $4-33 to $263.00. The median cost of a single agent was $27.00 per month. Conclusions. This study emphasizes the need for health care providers to undertake with cancer patients a comprehensive discussion of therapeutic options - including those relevant to nutrition-based complementary and alternative medicine. A compassionate discussion of patients' out-of-pocket costs should be an integral part of that discussion and should be emphasized as an important dimension of patient education efforts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health