The utilization of certain forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is prevalent among adults. While researchers have extensively studied the factors influencing SCAM use in Western countries, significant barriers to its adoption remain. This paper draws attention to the obstacles faced by individuals in their journey to using SCAM.

Qualitative interviews were conducted with 21 patients who had turned to SCAM for managing a chronic illness/condition and had been chosen through a ‘snowball sampling’ strategy. These in-depth, face-to-face interviews occurred in Miami, USA, during 2014-15. The sampling, data collection, and analysis processes of this study adhered to the principles outlined in Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory approach.

From the data, three central barriers to SCAM utilization in the US emerged: 1) Financial barriers: A significant portion of SCAM treatments is not covered by insurance, making them cost-prohibitive for many. 2) Skepticism and discouragement: Both conventional medical practitioners and a segment of the public exhibited a noticeable trend towards discouraging SCAM use. 3) Evaluation challenges: Patients expressed difficulty in assessing the efficacy and benefits of various SCAM treatments compared to their costs.

The author concluded that despite the widespread interest in and use of SCAM in the US, numerous barriers hinder its broader integration into mainstream healthcare. These obstacles not only restrict healthcare choices for the general public but also appear to favor a select demographic, potentially based on income and availability of information.

So, 21 individuals chosen via a snowball sampling strategy located in Miami feel that there were obstacles to using SCAM.


These obstacles existed about 10 myears ago.


The obstacles only existed in the imagination of these 21 guys.


The alleged obstacles are hardly relevant and therefore are not truly obstacles.

The only truly relevant obstacle to SCAM-use is the fact that most SCAMs have either not been shown to work, or shown not to work!

Perhaps surprisingly, the author concedes that their study has certain limitations: “This study had some inherent limitations. The sample, while chosen based on theoretical sampling to achieve theoretical saturation, was both small and self-selected. This limits the broad applicability of the findings. Moreover, individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds were not represented in the sample, which may have overlooked important perspectives on affordable SCAM options. The sample did not offer a detailed exploration of SCAM perceptions across diverse demographic categories, such as social class or ethnicity. It’s also essential to highlight that this research was conducted exclusively in Miami, a city with a significant population of ethnic minorities in the US. This demographic context could have uniquely influenced the feedback from SCAM users.”

If I may, I will another limitation: This study was utter nonsense from its conception to its publication!

You might think that all of this is quite trivial and that I am rather petty. If you look into Medline and realize how many such useless and counter-productive SCAM studies are being published, you might change your mind.

3 Responses to Barriers to the Utilization of So-called Alternative Medicine – is this the worst SCAM paper of the year?

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