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How To Choose A Complementary Drug Or Treatment


When choosing a complementary drug or treatment, there are a number of factors to keep in mind:

  • Learn what the drug or treatment is supposed to do, as well as the potential risks.
    • A safe product or treatment is one that does not harm when used under defined conditions and as intended. A safe therapy is also one in which the benefits outweigh any risks from treatment.
    • An effective drug or treatment is one in which there is the likelihood of benefit when a drug or treatment is used or applied under typical conditions by the average practitioner for the typical patient.
    • Your doctor can provide valuable information. Even if your doctor is not an expert in complementary medicines, he or she needs to know about all drugs or treatments you use. 
    • To learn how to find information about a complementary drug or treatment, click here.
  • Determine whether the drug or treatment will interfere with conventional treatment.
    • Your doctor or other health care professional can help you with this. 
  • Look at the expertise and qualifications of the healthcare provider.
    • As with any type of healthcare provider, when seeking a provider for a complementary therapy, it is a good idea to do a little homework. Look at the provider's:
      • Education (including amount of education and where the education took place)
      • Experience with the treatment in general.
      • Experience in treating people with your condition or ailment.
      • Reputation.
      • Certification or Licensing if there is certification or licensing.
  • Consider the quality of the service delivery.
    • Consider how a treatment is given and under what conditions.
    • Visit the practitioner's office, clinic, or hospital to look at the physical conditions in which you will be treated. 
    • Ask how many patients are typically seen in a day or a week. (The more the better).
  • Think about which treatment works best with your personality. For instance, an outgoing person who is filled with energy and needs to move around a lot is not likely to do well at sitting meditation. Walking meditation or another activity may be better.
  • Look at the cost, and whether your insurance will pay for it.
    • If your insurance will not pay, perhaps there are other complementary therapies that your insurance will pay for that should be considered. 
    • To get an insurance company to pay for a Complementary or Alternative Medicines or Treatments (CAM):
      • Check your insurance policy.
        • Does it cover particular treatments?
        • If so, are there any pre-approvals required?
      • Check with your state insurance department to find out whether an insurer is required to pay for CAM treatment in your state. If so, under what circumstances. To find contact information for your state insurance department see: offsite link
    • If the insurance company will still not pay:
      • Ask the insurer to bend the rules. Explain why it would be useful to you. If possible, put your argument in terms of economic savings to the insurer.
      • If your insurance is through your employer, ask your employer to add alternative therapies to your benefits. Since premiums will probably increase if this benefit is added, the more fellow employees that want the benefit, the more likely you are to get it.
      • Try to use tax-sheltered money, such as money in a flexible spending accounts (FSA). These accounts permit use of pretax dollars to pay for uncovered medical expenses. The IRS has approved acupuncture and chiropractic care as tax deductible medical expenses. Check with the IRS to see if others have been added, or if your employer will let you use money for this purpose.  

For general information about making any type of treatment decisions, see Choosing A Treatment.

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