Paving the way for complementary medicine?

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  • Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (2006) 12, 177180


    considering when looking at the direction thathealth care is taking.

    (NHS) research and development directorate and

    Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM),established to support CAM research. NCCAM now

    the rejection of unproven or disproved alternativetreatments currently being encouraged for use in

    ducts demonstrating efficacy, side effects from

    some diuretics can result in hyponutraemia (lowblood sodium) and may initiate seizures. There

    ARTICLE IN PRESSspend more than US $70 million annually funding are also a considerable number of medical

    1744-3881/$ - see front matter & 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2006.06.001the Medical Research Council (MRC) to providegreater support into complementary therapies. Forinstance in 1999, UK medical research charitiesspent only 0.05% of their total research budget.This is in contrast to The National Center for

    taking certain medications continue to occur. It isnot uncommon for further medication to berequired to offset these effects. Managing medicaliatrogenesis incurs a huge bill to the NHS annually.For example, a well-recognised side effect ofIn the main, CAM research in the UK is developingalong a cautious path. Claims of therapeuticefficacy for particular conditions tend to berigorously assessed in CAM since opponents of CAMcan be quick to throw stones in order to demolish orchip away at claims. Lack of research funding inCAM worldwide, means that by definition, studieswill not develop as rapidly or be as large as thosefunded by pharmaceutical companies. In the UKthere has been a call for National Health ServiceEDITORIAL

    Paving the way for comp

    This issue of Complementary Therapies in ClinicalPractice (CTCP) highlights papers from Russia,Canada, Italy, USA, UK and Japan.These papers reflect a concerted move towards

    evaluating, monitoring and addressing the safetyand efficacy of CAM worldwide. The topics ad-dressed in this publication highlight innovativeresearch and management of a number of chronicdiseases or problems encountered from birth intoaging and care of the elderly population.

    CAM and research

    Research into CAM evaluates therapeutic efficacyand it can also reflect how consumers feel aboutreceiving a particular therapysomething thatconventional medicine commonly fails to reflectupon. As CAM grows it appears to be of increasingvalue in chronic illness management. This is worththe NHS. Professor Baum and colleagues raisedconcerns that patients should benefit from the besttreatments available and avoid overt promotion oftherapies with implausible evidence but known tocause side effects or reject therapies not tested topharmaceutical standards.1

    Such an approach may seem praiseworthy since itis always paramount to ensure patient safety.However, in numerous cases where extensiveresearch has occurred into pharmaceutical pro-mentary medicine?

    CAM research and this represents a powerful way ofencouraging research.However, despite a general perception that

    funding bodies are biased against CAM, funding isavailable for CAM research in the UK. These includethe Wellcome Trust and the MRC. The success ratefor CAM applications to the Trust tends to begreater than for conventional research proposalsbut the number of applications continues to be verysmall.

    Current contentions

    Research is fundamental to establishing safety andefficacy of any therapeutic modality. However, inthe UK, Professor Baum and colleagues recentlyargued that patients, the public and the NHS arebetter served by using NHS funds for availabletreatment based on solid evidence and called for

  • practices currently perceived as conventionaltreatment that may fall short of current demandsfor research efficacy.It is unfortunate that pharmaceutical products

    are integrated so effectively within our culture

    between 2001 and 2004 the number of statins beingprescribed has more than doubled.10 The treatment


    EDITORIAL178today that we take the list of medication sideeffects for grantedeven when these effects areseriously debilitating. We have become socialisedinto thinking that once a drug is on general releasethe manufacturers know all there is to be knownabout a drugs interactions in the human body. Thisis rarely the case. Thus to challenge the overtpromotion of complementary medicine within theNHS purely and exclusively according to thestandards of pharmaceutical research may be afallacious argument.a

    Research is important and so is the need tomake substantiated claims about therapeuticefficacy. However, it is overly simplistic to claimpatients should benefit from the best treatmentsavailable1 because certain assumptions arebeing made. Firstly, that orthodox medicine hasall the answers to current medical problems;secondly, that all the research that needs to bedone in current conventional medical practice hasalready been doneand upheld. Thirdly, patientscurrently do get the best treatment available.There is also an assumption that individual medicalpractitioners are aware of all treatment choicesand the extent to which an option has research tosupport it.In reality choice of treatment is influenced by

    financial constraints and availability in a givenhealth district. Receiving the best treatment isnot straightforward; it is a complex business.Paradoxically, as a result of government

    initiatives encouraging individuals to takeresponsibility for their own health care the generalpublic are exhibiting increasing levels of healthliteracy with individuals being more aware ofvarious medical options open to them than everbefore. In some instances they may knowmore about specific therapies than the medicalpractitioner.As Baum et al.1 request, there should be a call for

    trusts to review their practicenot only in the areaof claims about CAM but also review the cost of NHStreatment prescribed to counteract medical iatro-genesis.It is apparent that whilst NHS money is indeed

    spent on complementary medicine the amounts

    aA forthcoming book2 highlights current research into a rangeof therapies, herbs and acupuncture may go some way topresolving uncertainties in this field may go some way to guidingpractitioners.of chronic disease costs UK healthcare in excess of1.75 billion with chronic heart disease the mostcostly disease in the UK.In the field of cancer care the costs are also

    increasing. With cancer now affecting 1:3people,8 the UK office of Health Economics putsthe total NHS expenditure for cancer services in200001 at 2106 million (10.6% of the totalbudget).9,11involved are very small and need to be viewed incontext with a breakdown of NHS expenditure ingeneral.Finding out how much money has been spent in

    various fields of health care is not always easy. Thisis because in part, patterns of morbidity change,the social and economic context of health carevaries and our response is influenced by changes inhealth care policy and technology.3

    Chronic illness management

    Many people continue to seek out complementarytherapies for chronic diseases. This oftenmeans that they feel their problem has not beenresolved by other, more conventional approaches.It is also apparent that chronic disease is increas-ing, ironically partly as a result of the success oforthodox medicine managing to keep people alivefor longer.Paradoxically, the Department of Health in the

    UK has not published a definition of chronic diseasenor does it keep a list of what is considered to be achronic disease.3 Thus it is not possible to accu-rately calculate how much of the health carebudget is spent on chronic disease. However, forthe sake of this paper, the definition of chronicdisease is taken from Last4 as an illness lasting morethan 3 months.Locker5 suggests that up to 80% (180 million) of

    general practitioner (GP) visits in the UK arerelated to chronic illness. This burden is increasingrather than decreasing with the World HealthOrganisation (WHO) estimating that chronic dis-eases will double for those in the 65 year cohort by2030.6

    Chronic heart disease and cancer are majorinfluencing factors in the growth of managed orchronic forms of disease.7 Although death rates forchronic heart failure have fallen since the 1970s inthe UK, morbidity does not appear to have followeda similar trend and may even appear to be rising.3

    Indeed, the British Heart Foundation estimates that

  • from them.It would seem than that there is clearly a need to

    is a coherent long-term strategy incorporatingadequate research funding to evaluate therapeutic


    EDITORIAL 179explore alternate forms of health care, which mayoffer economical and qualitative medical benefits.Substantial funds should be allocated to look atways to relieve aspects of chronic disease or at thevery least, enhance quality of life when living withchronic illness.Interestingly, we are presented with an emerging

    health care conundrum. On the one hand there isan assumption that the state has a responsibility toprotect the health of its people; on the other handthe state also wishes to claim that individuals areexpected to monitor and guard their own health. Inan ideal world this implies a balanced contractbetween consumer and supplier. However, recentlythe balance of the contract is becoming weightedtowards personal responsibility for health. Thussuppliers (in this case the government and healthdepartments) appear to be arguing that wherepersonal health care maintenance appears not tohave been effectively managed then medicaltreatment may be restricted. This approach isexemplified by caveats on the treatment of obesityor smoking-related co-morbidities.Restrictions of this sor


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