The US' National Center for Complementary and AlternativeMedicine (NCCAM) is to fund an Institute of Medicine (IOM) study investigating the implications of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) used by the American public. Costing $1 million, the nearly two-year study, will be conducted by the IOM, part of the National Academies.
The IOM will assemble a panel of approximately 16 expertsfrom a broad range of CAM and conventional disciplines,such as behavioural medicine, internal medicine, nursing,epidemiology and pharmacology.
This panel will assess research findings, hold workshops, and invite speakers to discuss issues, with the aim of providing a comprehensive overview of the use of CAM therapies by the American public and also to identify significant scientific and policy issues related to CAM research, regulation, integration, training and certification. They will also seek to develop a conceptual framework to help guide decision-making on these issues and questions.
The need for the study emerged fromdiscussions among members of the Trans-Agency CAMCoordinating Committee, chaired by Dr Stephen E. Straus, the NCCAM director. The Committee felt that the IOM had theexpertise to critically consider questions of CAM researchand policy.
"Americans use CAM therapies in record numbers," said Straus. "The IOM's report will give us a clearerunderstanding of the scope of CAM use by Americans, as wellas CAM's public health impact, and scientific and policyissues that will better inform our research decisions."
The IOM study will not however conduct new surveys of thepublic regarding CAM use, but instead gatherand analyse existing data. It also plans toaddress issues, such as the methodological difficulties in evaluating some CAM therapies, how the different CAM professions are regulated in the US and the policy and regulatory issues regarding licensing and certifying CAM practitioners.
The informationgenerated by the IOM panelshould complement the recommendations of the WhiteHouse Commission on Complementary and Alternative MedicinePolicy released earlier this year, said the study organisers. Panel members are currently being recruited.