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Many clinicians unaware of the serious scientific attention given to alternative medicine

11 years, 8 months ago

3698  0
Posted on Apr 29, 2009, 10 a.m. By gary clark

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is not getting its due. In fact, a new study shows that a majority of health practitioners in the United States are unaware that the federal government is giving serious scientific attention to CAM.

Over the past decade, the National Institutes of Health has invested more than $2 billion into CAM research. This includes a new study just published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine in which the NIH, in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic, surveyed 2,400 internists, rheumatologists, acupuncturists and naturopaths to determine their awareness levels of complementary and alternative medicine research and their attitudes towards CAM. Of the 65 percent (1,561) who completed the survey, 59 percent said they were aware of at least one of two major clinical trials recently published on CAM therapies for osteoarthritis of the knee (one of which researched acupuncture and the other studied the impact of the supplement glucosamine). 

However, just 23 percent were aware of both trials. Of those, nearly half of acupuncturists and rheumatologists were aware of the acupuncture study, compared to just 30 percent of the naturopaths and only 22 percent of the general internists. Far fewer acupuncturists (20 percent) and naturopaths (39 percent) knew about the glucosamine trial, while 59 percent of the internists and 88 percent of the rheumatologists were aware of the study. And only a minority of clinicians in all groups said they were "very confident" in their ability to critically interpret CAM research literature, with approximately two-thirds describing themselves as "moderately confident." 

Despite low awareness levels among clinicians, the American public in general is embracing alternative medicines. This past December, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released new findings that revealed about 38 percent of adults (four in 10) and approximately 12 percent of children (about one in nine) are using some form of CAM.

"For evidence from clinical research to have an impact on medical practice, health care professionals must first be aware of the research. Once aware, health care professionals must be able to interpret these findings, judging both their validity and their implications. Finally, they must apply the scientific evidence to their own practices," writes the study authors. They also note that the training, attitudes and experience of the health practitioners most likely influence their decisions to include useful alternative therapies into their practices. In conclusion, they write: "For clinical research in CAM to achieve its potential social value, concerted efforts must be undertaken that more deliberately train clinicians in critical appraisal, biostatistics and use of evidence-based resources, as well as expanded research opportunities, dedicated training experiences and improved dissemination of research results."

News Release: Many doctors are clueless about alternative medicine research  April 21, 2009

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