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Complementary and alternative therapies and conventional medical therapies

WASHINGTON -- Stating that health care should strive to be both comprehensive and evidence-based, a new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies calls for conventional medical treatments and complementary and alternative treatments to be held to the same standards for demonstrating clinical effectiveness. The same general research principles should be followed in evaluating both types of treatments, although innovative methods to test some therapies may have to be devised, said the committee that wrote the report.

The committee noted in particular the escalating popularity of dietary supplements as well as the lack of consistency and quality in these products, which are an important component of several complementary and alternative approaches. Product inconsistency hinders health professionals' abilities to guide patients on the use of supplements and researchers' ability to study them. The report calls on Congress to work with stakeholders to amend the regulation of supplements to improve quality control and consumer protections and to create incentives for research on the efficacy of these products.

"Ideally, health care should be comprehensive, grounded in the best available scientific evidence, and centered on patients' needs and preferences," said committee chair Stuart Bondurant, interim executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C. "Health professionals and patients should have sufficient information about safety and efficacy to take advantage of all useful therapies, both conventional and complementary and alternative. To that end, we believe that the same research principles and standards for showing effectiveness should apply to both conventional and complementary and alternative treatments. And because evidence is a key element of prudent decision-making, we need to change the current regulation of dietary supplements in this count
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Contact: Christine Stencel, Media Relations Officer
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
12-Jan-2005


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