Complementary and alternative medicines usage in elderly patients in tertiary care teaching hospital of North India

Akanksha Mehra, Vijay Khajuria


  1. Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is defined as a group of diverse medical health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Its use is highly prevalent in elderly population because of presence of chronic diseases. So, present study was planned to assess CAM usage in elderly patients.

    Methods: This observational, questionnaire-based study was conducted at department of pharmacology, in association with department of medicine and included all adult patients of more than 60 years of age who have taken any CAM therapy. Demographic data, name of CAM preparation, its characteristics and behavioral pattern for its usage were recorded.

    Results: Out of 200 patients of more than 60 years attending medicine outpatient department, 115 were found to be CAM users. CAM usage was more in females (59.1%); age group of 60-69 years (49.57%); rural residents (66.08%); low socioeconomic status (81.73%). Most common CAM preparations used were dietary supplements (61.7%) and vitamins and minerals (56.52%) for indications such as chronic pain and endocrine disorders because it was thought to be safe. 76.52 % of CAM users did not discuss CAM with their health care provider.

    Conclusions: CAM use is highly prevalent in elderly patients and more so in females of low socioeconomic status. Most common CAM therapy used was dietary supplements. Continuous educational efforts are needed to enhance the awareness of patients and healthcare providers regarding the CAM therapy.


Complementary medicine, Alternative medicine, Elderly, Complementary and alternative medicine

Full Text:



Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by the American Public. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005. 1, Introduction. Available at: Accessed on June 2020.

AARP and NCCAM Survey Report: U.S. National Institute of Health: Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health; 2011. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What People Aged 50 and Older Discuss with their Health Care Providers.

Ernst E, Berman FA. Complementary and alternative medicine: what is it all about. Occup Environ Med. 2002;59(2):140-84.

Siddiqui MJ, Min CS, Verma RK, Jamshed SQ. Role of complementary and alternative medicine in geriatric care: A mini review. Pharmacogn Rev. 2014;8(16):81-7.

Cremonini AL, Caffa I, Cea M, Nencioni A, Odetti P, Monacelli F. Nutrients in the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019;2019:9874159.

Keehn A, Lowe FC. Complementary and alternative medications for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Can J Urol. 2015;22(1):18-23.

Sharma E, Dubey AK, Malhotra S, Manocha S, Handu S. Use of complementary and alternative medicines in Indian elderly patients. Natl J Physiol Pharm Pharmacol. 2017;7(9):929-34.

Gaylord S, Crotty N. Enhancing function with complementary therapies in geriatric rehabilitation. Top Geriatr Rehabil. 2002;18:63-80.

Anderson EZ. Complementary therapies and older adults. Top Geriatr Rehabil. 2009;25:320-28.

Roy V, Gupta M, Ghosh RK. Perception, attitude and usage of complementary and alternative medicine among doctors and patients in a tertiary care hospital in India. Indian J Pharmacol. 2015;47:137-42.

Sackett K, Carter M, Stanton M. Elders’ use of folk medicine and complementary and alternative therapies: an integrative review with implications for case managers. Prof Case Manag. 2014;19(3):113-25.

Dagli RJ, Sharma A. Polypharmacy: a global risk factor for elderly people. J Int Oral Health. 2014;6(6):1-2.

Elmer GW, Lafferty WE, Tyree PT, Lind BK. Potential interactions between complementary/alternative products and conventional medicines in a Medicare population. Ann Pharmacother. 2007;41(10):1617-24.

Dongre AR, Deshmukh PR. Social determinants of quality of elderly life in a rural setting of India. Indian J Palliat Care. 2012;18(3):181-89.

Schnabel K, Binting S, Witt CM, Teut M. Use of complementary and alternative medicine by older adults: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Geriatr. 2014;14:38.

Choi B, Han D, Na S, Lim B. Factors related to the parallel use of complementary and alternative medicine with conventional medicine among patients with chronic conditions in South Korea. Integr Med Res. 2017;6(2):223-29.

Jaiswal K, Bajait C, Pimpalkhute S, Sontakke S, Dakhale G, Magdum A. Knowledge, attitude and practice of complementary and alternative medicine: A patient’s perspective. Int J Med Public Health. 2015;5:19-23.

Cheung CK, Wyman JF, Halcon LL. Use of complementary and alternative therapies in community-dwelling older adults. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(9):997-1006.

Ness J, Cirillo DJ, Weir DR, Nisly NL, Wallace RB. Use of complementary medicine in older Americans: results from the Health and Retirement Study. Gerontologist. 2005;45(4):516-24.

Cohen RJ, Ek K, Pan CX. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by older adults: a comparison of self-report and physician chart documentation. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002;57(4):223-7.

Kaboli PJ, Doebbeling BN, Saag KG, Rosenthal GE. Use of complementary and alternative medicine by older patients with arthritis: a population-based study. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;45(4):398-403.

Sadiq S, Khajuria K, Khajuria V. Complementary and alternative medicine use among type-2 diabetes patients in a tertiary care hospital. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2017;6:2561-5.

Grant SJ, Bin YS, Kiat H, Chang DH. The use of complementary and alternative medicine by people with cardiovascular disease: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:299.