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Health

Alternative therapies moving toward the mainstream

Acupuncture & book
Doctors are teaching each other alternative medical procedures like acupuncture  

February 23, 1999
Web posted at: 11:16 p.m. EST (0416 GMT)

From Health Correspondent Eileen O'Connor

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- At the University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine, doctors are preparing to use a different kind of needle -- an acupuncture needle.

The ancient Eastern procedure is taught as a continuing education class at UCLA's medical school. Enrollment in the class has nearly doubled in the past two years as "alternative" practices like acupuncture become more widely accepted by physicians.

"Acupuncture has become white bread in American society," said Dr. Joseph Helms, of UCLA Medical Center. "It's no longer something that's very unusual. It's something patients expect their physicians to be able to provide or refer to."

Supporters of integrating alternative therapies into their practices still have to face questions from sometime skeptics like Caryn Vogel, an Indianapolis neurologist.

"Since I was in medical school, acupuncture was given about a paragraph or so," Vogel said. "But more and more patients were coming to me with information, and I was seeing more in the medical literature."

But acceptance by the Food and Drug Administration of acupuncture needles as "approved medical devices" made Vogel and many of these others look again -- that, and the fact patients were turning to alternative medicine with or without their doctors.

"They have come with shopping bags filled with over-the-counter preparations and non-prescription alternative therapies that they are getting on their own, and some are potentially dangerous," Vogel said. "They're not regulated in the same way."

A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that in 1997, 83 million Americans paid out-of-pocket for alternative therapies and medicine -- a market estimated at $27 billion.

Tapping that market is the idea behind American Whole Health. In five years, they have generated revenues up to $40 million and have six centers throughout the United States.

The company says learning more about the science behind these kinds of therapies takes out what it calls the fear factor -- perhaps making these no longer the "alternative," but the rule.


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RELATED SITES:
Journal of the American Medical Association
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