Complementary and Alternative Therapies Now Being Evaluated In Controlled Scientific Studies as Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Go Outside the Traditional Health System

NEW YORK, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Although nearly half of U.S. adults are
going outside the health system for at least some of their care and spending
about $30 billion a year for the privilege, few complementary and alternative
therapies have been evaluated in controlled scientific studies-until now. At
research hospitals around the country, physicians are studying herbs and
biofeedback as rigorously as they would a new antibiotic, Newsweek reports in
the Dec. 2 cover story (on newsstands Monday, Nov. 25).
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Complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, is not a single, unified
tradition. The term covers practices ranging from the credible (acupuncture,
chiropractic) to the laughable (coffee enemas), writes Senior Editor Geoffrey
Cowley. Because few of these therapies have been thoroughly evaluated in
controlled studies, their effectiveness is still widely debated. But now no
one disputes their significance. After dismissing CAM therapies as quackery
for the better part of a century, the medical establishment now finds itself
racing to evaluate them. The short-term goal is to identify the most
effective and safe alternative therapies and make them part of routine
clinical practice. But the larger mission is to spawn a new kind of
integrative medicine, one that employs the rigor of modern science without
being constrained by it.
Studies are now underway to determine whether acupuncture can ease
arthritis pain, whether vitamin E and selenium help prevent prostate cancer
and whether ginkgo biloba can preserve mental function in the elderly. And
while these huge clinical trials plod along, researchers are also using state-
of-the-art laboratory techniques to glimpse the physiological effects of
different CAM remedies. By placing CAM under the microscope, scientists will
no doubt gain a better sense of which therapies work, how they work, whether
they're safe and who is most likely to benefit, writes Cowley.
Newsweek's cover story also looks at the effectiveness of Chinese
medicine. Modern science is starting to verify that some of the age-old
remedies really work and the evidence is promising enough that Western
researchers have begun looking to China for potential new therapies, writes
Reporter Anne Underwood. CAM therapies are also playing a bigger role in
pediatric medicine. Senior Writer David Noonan reports that there now is a
small but growing cadre of researchers who are subjecting pediatric CAM
therapies to the rigors of traditional, randomized, controlled clinical trials
to find out what will work best for kids. And in the psychiatric field,
Americans are avidly pursuing alternative treatments since the effectiveness
of traditional drugs vary widely from person to person and often come with an
array of side effects. While the research on these therapies is still
preliminary, the science is beginning to improve, reports General Editor
Claudia Kalb.

(Read Newsweek's news releases

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