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Better evidence base for complementary therapies remains a priority


New research is needed to assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of complementary therapies, according to a report from a health thinktank.

The report, published today by the King’s Fund, warns that despite the increasing popularity of treatments, such as acupuncture, reflexology and osteopathy, there is still little evidence as to whether, and how, they work.

According to the report, lack of agreement on the best methods to test the efficacy and effectiveness of complementary therapies have made addressing the lack of evidence difficult.

But the report hopes to establish a consensus on how research can be conducted that can be supported by both the conventional and complementary health care communities.

Professor Dame Carol Black, who chaired the committee behind the report, said: ‘It has become widely accepted that a stronger evidence base is needed if we are to reach a better understanding of complementary practices and ensure greater confidence in their clinical and cost effectiveness.

‘The challenge is to develop methods of research that allow us to assess the value of an approach that seeks to integrate the physical intervention, the personal context in which it is given, and non-specific effects that together comprise a particular therapy,’ she added. 


Readers' comments (3)

  • It is time for the scientific community to stop giving alternative medicine a free ride. There cannot be two kinds of medicine -- conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work.
    Marcia Angell, M.D., and Jerome Kassirer, M.D., past editors of The New England Journal of Medicine

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  • Alternative medicine now has a ‘regulator’. The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council has got off to a rather faltering start even with the support of £1m of DoH funding. Initial claims that 10,000 ‘practitioners’ would join their group by Jan 2010 were swiftly amended to 4,000 and now a jump from a total of 500 'practitioners' in August to 2,000 by joining by next month are projected!

    Deals are being struck to let private companies ‘verify’ individuals for admission to the 'regulator' and incentives ranging from reduced charges to logo key rings are all options for those who meet the National Occupational Standard.

    Most embarrassing of all is that many of the individuals responsible for this doomed attempt at sudo-regulation are nurses!

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  • '...and medicine that may or may not work'
    do you mean medicine like anti-depressants or chemotherapy? or vaccines?

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