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Alternative medicine in France - Statistics & Facts

Although there is no scientific proof of their efficacy, alternative medicine enjoys a big following in France. The term alternative medicine encompasses a broad spectrum of therapies, treatments and medicines. What they have in common is that they are not connected to medical science and are either not confirmable or have even proven ineffective. 35 percent of French people believe that alternative medicines are less effective than traditional medicine and 91 percent of them believe that they are effective for treating minor ailments.

11 percent of French people see an alternative medicine practitioner ten times a year and half of them have already consulted an osteopath at least once in their lifetime. The reasons for resorting to alternative medicine are manifold and range from a desire to complement conventional treatments to complete rejection of traditional medicine. The main reasons for not relying on alternative medicine are the absence of need and the cost of such treatments. Also, 24 percent of French people have already questioned a doctor’s diagnosis based on the advice of an alternative medicine practitioner and stopped taking a treatment prescribed by a doctor, replacing it with alternative medicine instead. Even though alternative medicines are generally not harmful, stopping traditional treatment can have very grave consequences in case of serious conditions and illnesses, such as cancer.

The practices of alternative medicine which have the best image among French people are osteopathy, homeopathy and acupuncture. These are also the types of alternative medicine which are officially recognized by the French Medical Council (CNOM). Osteopathy describes a technique which aims to detect and treat functional disorders through physical manipulation of muscle tissue and bones. 85 percent of French people believe in the health benefits of this type of practice and almost half of people who visited an osteopath are very satisfied with the quality of care provided.

The second most popular type of alternative medicine, homeopathy, is based on the pseudoscientific belief that it is possible to treat a patient by very strongly diluting substances which, if concentrated, would cause symptoms similar to those being experienced. After a long debate, the French government announced in 2019 that French social security will gradually stop reimbursing patients for homeopathic treatment until 2021. The decision, based on a report from the French National Authority for Health (HAS), which concluded that homeopathic medicines were of insufficient efficacy to justify reimbursement, may seem bold in a country where no more than 11 percent think that beneficiaries of alternative treatments should cover the costs themselves. Furthermore, France is also home to Boiron, the world leader in homeopathic products.

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