Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to spend millions of dollars in advertising funds to gain the business of American consumers. In several well published incidents, products were found to be not as safe as the company’s would lead their customers/patients to believe, yet research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) fails to find its way into the annals of medical science.
The old argument is that CAM treatments do not have to undergo the rigorous testing and standards that pharmaceuticals have to go through. The problem was one of definition. The FDA regulates anything that goes in or on the body. Some forms of complementary and alternative medicine involve absolutely no application or ingestion of any substance. Therapies such as energy therapies, meditation, and body manipulation techniques did not fall under the auspices of the FDA. Biologically based alternative medicines had to undergo the same testing as other pharmaceuticals.
The problem was that a loophole allowed herbal products to slip through as a dietary ingredient. They fell under the same category as a food product. As long as no medical claims were made, no regulation existed, other than basic food manufacturing practices.
In 2006, regulations were extended to include CAM products that were labeled as treatments for diseases or health conditions. If any medical claim is made for the product at all, it now has to go through the FDA approval process. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was instituted to oversee the clinical trial and approval process for complementary and alternative medicines. The testing standards are similar to those for drugs manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry.
Nearly 75 percent of all physicians were biased against the use of complementary and alternative medicines. Even when clinical trials of complementary and alternative medicine are included in medical journals, reporting of the results sometimes demonstrates bias that borders on unethical. For instance, some draw conclusions that are not supported by the results, or blame alternative medicines on adverse affects where no evidence exists to support this claim.
A quick survey of American Medical Association journals supports the study. If one compares results reported and the NCCAM database with those in popular medical journals, it becomes apparent that results of clinical trials involving complementary and alternative medicine are not being reported. It also becomes obvious that negative results for complementary and alternative medicines make the journal much more often than positive results. An examination of the database of the government agency that is responsible for clinical studies on complementary and alternative medicine contains a plethora of clinical studies that contain positive results for complementary and alternative medicine, yet these studies are not making it into the medical journals, nor are they making it into mainstream media. The reason for this is not known, but the bias exists nonetheless.
If you are interested in complementary and alternative medicines, an internet trip to the NCCAM database will lead you to many answers that you did not know were out there.
If you find anything interesting, let us know on our blog.