On behalf of our 16 Federal co-sponsors, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) thanks the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies for its thoughtful deliberations and report on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States.1
Two years ago, NCCAM identified a need to better understand the scientific and policy implications of the widespread use of CAM. These implications relate to an evolving CAM research agenda as well as the regulation of CAM products, training and certification of CAM practitioners, and the integration of proven CAM practices into mainstream health care. NCCAM, with its many Federal partners, turned to the IOM to undertake a study of these issues and develop a series of recommendations about them.
The IOM report speaks to a set of principles that apply not only to CAM but to all research. This is an achievement that has now elevated the discussion of CAM beyond the advocacy and skepticism that has long hampered the evolution of CAM science. The conclusion that CAM research should be held to the same rigorous standards as conventional medicine will further the scientific investigation of this new field, increase its legitimacy as a research area, and ultimately improve the public health. Specifically, the IOM concluded that
“The committee recommends that the same principles and standards of evidence of treatment effectiveness apply to all treatments, whether currently labeled as conventional medicine or CAM. Implementing this recommendation requires that investigators use and develop as necessary, common methods, measures, and standards for the generation and interpretation of evidence necessary for making decisions about the use of CAM and conventional therapies.”
It is particularly gratifying that the IOM findings and recommendations mirror the advice that NCCAM independently accrued over the past year in its extensive strategic planning process to formalize its research agenda for the years 2005-2009. Issues common both to NCCAM’s new plan and the IOM report include the resolution to ensure rigor in CAM studies, to increase the emphasis on health services research, and to consider the ethical, legal, and social implications of CAM research and integrated medicine. Drawing upon the added insights and knowledge that the IOM report provides, NCCAM and its sister research institutes and agencies will continue our efforts to establish the safety and efficacy of CAM practices while upholding the highest standards of science.
1 Institute of Medicine. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. January 12, 2005.