'The Science of Alternative Medicine'
- Newsweek Cover: 'The Science of Alternative Medicine'
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).
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.