Magazine article Drug Topics

Authoritative Information on CAM Sorely Needed

Magazine article Drug Topics

Authoritative Information on CAM Sorely Needed

Article excerpt


Providing good information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to the American public is foremost among the recommendations issued by the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) in its final report to President Bush and Congress. The report includes 29 recommendations and 100 key action steps based on hearings at 14 public town hall meetings.

The commission, established March 7, 2000, by President Bill Clinton, indudes business leaders, academicians, physicians, and healthcare professionals. WHCCAMP was charged with preparing a report that would ensure "that public policy maximizes the benefits to Americans of complementary and alternative medicine."

James Gordon, M.D., chair of the commission, told Drug Topics, "What we heard again and again from clinicians, researchers, and ordinary people is we need to know what works, what doesn't work, what's safe, what's effective, and what's not effecfive. And we need to know in a way that we can understand." He added, "Several recommendations have to do with the provision of information or of education, which is a vehicle for providing information."

The commission feels that there needs to be a central coordination of activities related to CAM and, in particular, of the creation and dissemination of reliable, authoritative and unbiased information to the American public, Gordon said. "That would come out of the central coordinating office in the Department of Health & Human Services," he explained. "A lot of information is being provided, but it's scattered, it's incomplete, there are huge gaps, and it's sometimes incomprehensible to the ordinary person. We feel very strongly that the government should facilitate the provision of that information."

The commission believes that conventional health professionals are ill informed about the benefits, efficacy, and potential adverse effects of complementary care products as well as on research that has been conducted on CAM products.

"We've come out strongly with recommendations about education at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels and for continuing education," said Gordon. "If I'm a family physician or internist, I need to know what is known about acupuncture and herbs. I need to be openminded enough so my patients will tell me what they are doing. Seventy percent of patients are still not telling doctors what they are doing, and doctors are not asking. Doctors need to know enough about CAM to help their patients figure out what to do and who to see and who not to see. …

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