Complementary and Allopathic Treatments Compared

Cost, Benefit and Side Effect Profiles of
Complementary and Allopathic
Medical Treatment
for Six Medical Problems

Osteo-arthritis

Approach

Treatment

Costs

Effectiveness

Major Side Effects

Alternative

Glucosamine500 mg tld

$14/month

95% improved. More effective than Motrin 1200 mg/d

None

Conventional

NSAIDS-eg, Motrin, Feldene, etc.

$4 to over $90/mo.

Serious hemorrhage, hepatitis, kidney failure, dizziness, confusion.

Disk Disease

Approach

Treatment

Costs

Effectiveness

Major Side Effects

Alternative

IV colchicine weekly for 6 weeks

$280-700

Over 70% showed significant improvement (vs 20% with placebo).

Allergic reactions, skin burns

Conventional

Laminectomy

$5,000 – 7,500

Risk of anesthesia, nerve injury, Increased pain and disability.

Severe Congestive Heart Failure

Approach

Treatment

Costs

Effectiveness

Major Side Effects

Alternative

CoEnzyme Q-10 100 mg/d

$21

Improves patient one functional class

None

Conventional

ACE inhibitors
or
Heart transplant

$23-106/mo.
or
$200,000 – 400,000

Hypotension, cough, kidney dysfunction, hyperkalemia
or
Death, stroke, rejection, etc.

Elevated Cholesterol

Approach

Treatment

Costs

Effectiveness

Major Side Effects

Alternative

Garlic 1 gram/d

$3

LDL-15%
HDL-10%
Trig-15%

None (if deodorized garlic is used)

Conventional

HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor

$30-125/mo.

Lescol 20mg/d:
LDL 19-22%
Trig 9%
slight HDL

Hepatitis, myositis

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Approach

Treatment

Costs

Effectiveness

Major Side Effects

Alternative

B6 250 mg/d x12 weeks and wrist splints

$60

66-98% cure rate

None (neuropathy with excessive dose for years)

Conventional

Surgery (nerve release)

$2,700

Good

Nerve injury, anesthetic risk

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy

Approach

Treatment

Costs

Effectiveness

Major Side Effects

Alternative

Herbal Rx eg, Serenoa repens 585 mg/d

$2/mo.

~90% of patients improved

None

Conventional

Surgery (TURP) or Proscar

$5,000 or $84.58/mo. for Proscar

Good (surgery)
Modest (Proscar)

Impotence, incontinence, anesthetic risk

  • Supplement prices are from Vitamin Shoppe Catalogue (retail).

  • Medication costs and side effects and efficacy are from the “Medical Letter” on Drugs and Therapeutics.

  • Surgical costs are from AAMC Business Office and do not include testing or anesthesiologist fees.

SOURCE: 1995 report of the Maryland Commission on Complementary Medical Methods

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