Consumers need to know more about alternative medicine

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Related tags: Alternative medicine

The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (WHCCAM), a body set up to advise the US administration on
how better to regulate the alternative medicine industry, has said
that consumers need easier access to unbiased information about
alternative treatments and medicines.

The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (WHCCAM), a body set up to advise the US administration on how better to regulate the alternative medicine industry, has said that consumers need easier access to unbiased information about alternative treatments and medicines.

The commission is drafting recommendations and a report which is to be sent to Congress and the White House later this month, and it has called for a number of significant changes to the current policies in order to improve the quality of alternative medicine.

Among the draft recommendations is a call for more money from the federal government to fund controlled studies to ascertain which alternative therapies work.

The report suggests that more money should be provided for the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, which already spends millions of dollars each year funding research into the vast array of alternative and complementary medicines.

Dr James S. Gordon, who chairs the WHCCAM, said that research into the safety and efficacy of alternative therapies should be "of neither a higher bar nor a lower bar" than research backing up traditional drugs and treatments.

Critics of alternative medicine have long complained that current legislation allows companies to sell vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies with no proof that they benefit health. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has also been criticised for not doing more to keep track of adverse events associated with some supplements on the market, a complaint which the commission has addressed in its report.

As well as calling for greater clarity on labels, the commission has recommended that practitioners of alternative medicine be obliged to post their credentials in their clinics, a move designed to weed out the growing number of unqualified people seeking to cash in on the growing interest in alternative therapies.

The WHCCAM also stressed the need for a comprehensive database of information on alternative medicine which was easily accessible to consumers and their physicians. Consumers spend millions of dollars on alternative therapies each year even though many of them are often unaware of the real benefits or side-effects.

"People just don't have access to authoritative information from an unbiased source,"​ he said. "A lot of the information that's being purveyed is being purveyed by people who have something to gain, who have products to sell."

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Suppliers

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