Natural Foods Merchandiser

White House CAM Commission Releases Final Report

The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine issued its final report to the Bush administration on March 17. Among its 19 pages of recommendations, the commission urges the government to expand federal funding for alternative therapies' practice and research. The commission, formed under the Clinton administration, spent the past two years and $2 million researching and creating the report.

The following are among the commission's recommendations:

  • Alternative therapies should be covered by Medicare, other federal health programs and managed health care.

  • CAM research should receive more funding and a national office to manage the research.

  • Dietary supplements manufacturers should possibly be required to register with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that consumers are aware of potential side effects.

  • The proposed Good Manufacturing Practices for Dietary Supplements should be published expeditiously, followed by a final rule.

  • Adverse events reporting concerning dietary supplements should be improved.

  • Government should increase scrutiny of alternative care Web sites.

  • Congress should better fund the Federal Trade Commission so it can better target inaccurate advertising of alternative practices and dietary supplements.

  • School children should be taught, via a national education program, about nutrition, stress management and exercise.

Which, if any, of the report's recommendations the Bush administration will adopt is unknown. "I think the administration will recognize that there are some good suggestions [in the report] to improve the health care system," said Tony Martinez, vice president and government relations legislative council for American Specialty Health, a complementary health care provider based in San Diego, Calif. "I don't think the report will get shelved.

The report could have a significant impact on the industry because many of the recommendations involve supplements.
"What will get done is the low hanging fruit, or what is doable, like looking at the tax code to see that CAM is not out of par with [conventional medical practices] and looking at the ways the federal government can encourage state licensure." He added that the report could have a significant impact on the natural products industry because many of the recommendations involve dietary supplements.

The report also has been controversial within the commission. Several days following its release, two commissioners, Joseph Fins, M.D., FACP, and Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., dissented and submitted a minority report. Among their criticisms were the report's omission of the limitations of unproven CAM interventions and its failure to define which CAM practices and products lack scientific credibility and are unsafe, according to the Washington Post.

"It's interesting to note that the two people who dissented have conventional medical degrees, so it shouldn't be too surprising," Martinez said. The commission included 20 credentialed members, among them medical doctors, nurses, a naturopathic doctor and a dentist. Its recommendations were based on public hearings, meetings and more than 1,700 testimonies.

In general, Martinez was pleased with the report. "I think it was a positive step forward, but more is still needed to be done in this area. It's going to take real hard work to bring the policy recommendations that are politically feasible to reality," he said. "That's the next challenge."

George Devries, a White House CAM commissioner, will be a panelist at the Natural Products Expo East seminar "State of Industry: Complementary and Alternative Medicine," in Washington, D.C., Oct. 3-6.

To view the final report in its entirety, visit

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 5/p. 11

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