New Research Complementary Medicines can contribute to reduced government healthcare costs and productivity gains

15 October 2014

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15 October 2014. A new study has quantified the potential reduction in economy-wide healthcare costs and productivity losses that can result from the use of specific complementary medicines in targeted populations.
Dr Deon Schoombie, Executive Director of the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI), which commissioned the research, said: "The report highlights the important role that complementary medicines and self care can play in improving individual health and reducing government healthcare costs.

The study, 'Targeted Use of Complementary Medicines: Potential Health Outcomes and Cost Savings in Australia,' by economic research firm Frost and Sullivan, revealed that when specific complementary medicines are used by high risk target populations, there is the potential for improvements in the health of individuals, lower costs due to reduced need for hospitalisation and reduced work absences/productivity losses.1

The study examined six complementary medicines, all with evidence of efficacy, across four chronic disease conditions - osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease (CVD), age-related macular degeneration and depression.

"The biggest gains identified in the study are in the area of osteoporosis and osteopenia - conditions which resulted in approximately 140,822 fractures in 2012 and affect some 1.8 million people at a cost of approximately $3 billion per annum," explained Dr Schoombie. 2,3

"Potential healthcare costs savings and productivity gains were calculated if all women over 50 with osteoporosis were to take calcium and vitamin D at a preventive dose to reduce the risk of osteoporosis-attributed bone fractures.
Frost and Sullivan found the relative risk of an individual in the target population experiencing an osteoporosis-attributed fracture is reduced by 19.7% given the use of calcium and vitamin D at preventive intake levels. This translates to a potential of 36,783 avoidable osteoporosis-attributed fractures in 2015 given 100 per cent utilisation of calcium and vitamin D by the high risk population.
The report estimated that between 2015 and 2020 average annual hospitalisation costs of $922 million can be potentially saved and average annual productivity gains of $900 million can be realised for the same period if all women aged over 50 who were diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia take a preventive dose of calcium and vitamin D.

"More than a half of the potential total benefits would go to the individual and over 42 per cent of potential total benefits can be realised by Federal and State governments. The average annual benefit/cost ratio between 2015 and 2020 is $22.34 for every dollar spent on this complementary medicine regimen," he concluded.

The report also explored the burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) on Australians and the potential health and economic benefits that can be realised if an omega-3 fatty acid regimen was used by all Australians aged 55 and over who are diagnosed with CVD.

It was estimated that the relative risk of hospitalisation due to a CVD event can be reduced by 4.9 per cent and 6,894 average annual medical events avoided between 2015 -2020 if all Australians aged over 55 with CVD were to take omega-3 fatty acids at a preventive level. The average annual benefit cost ratio from 2015 to 2020 would be $8.49 for every dollar spent on the omega-3 fatty acids.

"This study followed a 'health to wealth' methodology," according to Christopher Shanahan, global program manager, food and agriculture at Frost & Sullivan. "We wanted the science to guide us to what the cost savings and the productivity gains could be for Federal and State governments, individuals and enterprises such as private health insurers."

About the Study
The Frost and Sullivan researchers conducted a review of peer-reviewed scientific literature, focusing on studies that quantified the effect of certain complementary medicines on the occurrence of disease-related events among targeted populations. From this review, an overall change in the relative risk of a given disease-related event resulting from the use of each of the complementary regimens was derived. Then, these relative risk reduction statistics were used as an input into a cost-benefit scenario analysis to determine the potential change in hospital utilisation costs and wage income gains that could be realised if people in a specified high-risk population were to use each of the complementary medicine regimens.

For a summary of the report click here.
For the full report click here.

About ASMI: The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak body representing sponsors of non-prescription medicines - over-the-counter (OTC) and complementary medicines (CM). ASMI members make up 85 per cent of the $4bn Non-Prescription Medicines market. Membership totals 50 companies and ASMI members employ approximately 18,000 people with exports estimated at $1.2 billion annually. ASMI's mission is to advance consumer health through responsible self-care. This means driving a viable and responsible industry and empowering the consumer with evidence-based products and information with the aim of improving health and wellbeing. To find out more about ASMI or how to become an ASMI member, please visit (

1. Shanahan, C. and Lorimier, R. Targeted Use of Complementary Medicines: Potential Health Outcomes and Cost Savings in Australia. Frost and Sullivan, October 2014.

2. Department of Health. Burden of disease: a snapshot in 2013. Department of Health, Queensland Government, Brisbane 2013.

3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved in July 2014 at

For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Marie Kelly-Davies
PR Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
P: 9923 9410 M:0408 256 381 E: