NIH Announces Study of Alternative Medicine

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and 16 Federal co-sponsors announce the launch of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) study of the scientific and policy implications of the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by the American public. The $1 million, nearly 2-year study, will be conducted by the IOM, a component of the National Academies.

The National Academies is a private, nonprofit, non-governmental institution created by a congressional charter to be an advisory body for the nation on scientific and technological matters. The IOM draws upon volunteer panels of experts to examine policy matters regarding the public`s health. NCCAM, the primary sponsor of the study, is the Federal Government`s lead agency for scientific research on CAM.

The IOM will assemble a panel of approximately 16 experts from a broad range of CAM and conventional disciplines, such as behavioral medicine, internal medicine, nursing, epidemiology, pharmacology, health care research and administration, and education. During the course of the study, the IOM panel will assess research findings, hold workshops, and invite speakers to address the panel, among other activities, in order to:

Provide a comprehensive overview of the use of CAM therapies by the American public; // Identify significant scientific and policy issues related to CAM research, regulation, integration, training, and certification; and // Develop a conceptual framework to help guide decisionmaking on these issues and questions.

The value of undertaking this study emerged from discussions among members of the Trans-Agency CAM Coordinating Committee, chaired by Stephen E. Straus, M.D., NCCAM Director. The Committee felt that the IOM had the expertise to critically consider questions of CAM research and policy.


“Americans use CAM therapies in record numbers,” said Dr. Straus. “The IOM`s report will give us a clearer understanding of the scope of CAM use by Americans, as well as CAM`s public health impact, and scientific and policy issues that will better inform our research decisions.”

The IOM study, led by Senior Program Officer Lyla M. Hernandez, MPH, of the Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, will not conduct new surveys of the public regarding CAM use. Rather, the IOM panel will gather and analyze existing data. In addition, the IOM study, which will recruit panel members after October 1, plans to address many key questions, such as:


What are the methodological difficulties in evaluating some CAM therapies? // How are the different CAM professions regulated in the United States? // What is the current situation for coverage of CAM by insurers and other third parties?

What are the policy and regulatory issues regarding licensing and certifying CAM practitioners?


The answers to these questions and the information generated by the IOM panel of leading scholars drawn from both conventional medicine and CAM, and from education, should serve to complement the recommendations of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy released earlier this year.

The agencies that are co-sponsoring the IOM study include:

Agency for Health Care Research and Quality // John E. Fogarty International Center // National Cancer Institute // National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine // National Center for Research Resources // National Institute on Aging // National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism // National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases // National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases // National Institute of Child Health and Human Development // National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research // National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases // National Institute on Drug Abuse //
National Institute of Mental Health // National Library of Medicine // NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research // NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative medical (CAM) practices in the context of rigorous science, training CAM researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM`s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at

For information on the National Academies, visit For information on the Institute of Medicine, visit Note to Reporters: for additional information about the study, the IOM, or the National Academies, call Christine Stencel, media officer, at 202-334-2138.