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Alternative Medicine: Complete Sector Overview

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Global Alternative Medicine Industry

The global alternative medicine sector, part of the broad healthcare industry, is expected to reach close to $115 billion by 2015, according to Global Industry Analysts. Market growth is fuelled by a trend toward herbal and nature-based products, based on the presumption these products cause fewer side effects than modern medicines. Alternative medicine disciplines such as acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine are being practiced more widely in the western world.

Around 75% of the population in emerging nations receive alternative medical healthcare, compared with over half of the population of developed nations, particularly for lifestyle-related diseases.

The alternative medicine market is also benefiting from changes in the insurance landscape, with more companies covering complementary and alternative medical care. One major obstacle to industry growth involves the comparatively slack condition of its regulations, and less extensive research and developing methods than in modern medicine. The degree of risk associated with alternative therapies is sometimes perceived as higher, relative to more mainstream healthcare in developed countries.

Key Market Segments

Alternative medicine statistics show that the global herbal supplement and remedy industry is forecast to exceed $105 billion by 2017, according to research from Global Industry Analysts. Market growth is driven by the world’s aging population, increased general awareness surrounding health issues and a lower rate of side effects compared with conventional medicines. Over the past ten-year period, the market has recorded strong growth, relatively unaffected by the economic recession. Other elements that have had a positive impact on the market include a trend toward using herbs to prevent and treat illness, greater acceptance of functional foods, the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices publication concerning dietary supplements and supplier innovation.

Female consumers represent the largest group, with middle-aged women in particular becoming increasingly aware of health issues and the role of diet in health and well being. Consumers are also becoming increasingly concerned with prevention, taking greater initiative in ensuring their own health. Conditions received particular attention from herbal supplement manufacturers within the alternative medicine industry include hot flashes, insomnia and menopause. Leading companies operating in the global herbal supplements and remedies market include Natrol, Arkopharma, Pharmaton Natural Health Products, Nature’s Herbs, Bio-Botanica, Indfrag, Imperial Ginseng Products, Emerson Ecologics, Ricola, Nature’s Answer and Blackmores.

Regional Markets

Regional differences within the alternative medicine industry are largely due to varying attitudes concerning state policy. Global Industry Analysts points to the discrepancy between alternative medicine policy within the EU and in Asia, with the latter benefiting from enabling regulations, while the former is more heavily regulated, with many herbal medications banned pending more extensive testing and research. The World Health Organization is working on initiatives to promote better integration of alternative medicine into healthcare systems, and assisting nations in setting standards in place for alternative medicines, practices and practitioners.

Global variances in the global herbal supplements and remedies market are dictated by product availability, delivery routes, region-specific regulations, product acceptance, and consumer awareness. In the EU and US markets, herbal medicines account for a large part of the pharmaceutical market. New companies cannot easily enter the market due to regulations and testing. In other countries, including the UK, France, India and Germany, herbal supplements are sold through drugstores. The EU holds the largest share of the herbal supplements and remedies market.

The US chiropractic care market is expected to reach almost $13 billion by 2015 reports Global Industry Analysts. In the US, musculoskeletal disorders are the leading cause of physical disability. Treatment of these disorders costs over $800 billion a year, with back pain alone representing a cost of $12 billion a year. Around 25 million people consult chiropractic practitioners each year in the US. The market is partly driven by companies and Medicaid offering coverage for chiropractic treatment.

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