News Briefs

NCCAM Announces Research Fellowship Program

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced the creation of a new NCCAM Director’s Fellowship in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Research.

The new fellowship program will sponsor outstanding research fellows to work in NCCAM’s Division of Intramural Research (DIR), based at the NIH in Bethesda, MD. A selection committee comprising leaders from the CAM and scientific communities will choose the recipient of the fellowship from a highly competitive international pool of applicants. Applicants must possess an MD, DO, PhD, DC, DMD, ND, DVM, or other equivalent degree, and have a record of excellence and promise in clinical and/or laboratory-based research—preferably related to CAM.

The primary goal of the training program is to prepare the fellow for a career as an independent CAM investigator. The fellowship includes full salary, benefits, professional travel, and research support for two to three years. The fellow will undertake clinical, translational, and/or laboratory research in NCCAM’s DIR. The DIR provides state-of-the-art research facilities as well as access to the extensive clinical research infrastructure of the NIH Clinical Center.

For more information about the fellowship, applicants should contact: Christopher Baron, Human Resources Specialist, Office of Human Resources, NIH, 31 Center Drive, Room 2C12, Bethesda, MD 20892. His e-mail address is Baronch@mail.nih.gov. The deadline for receipt of applications is Nov. 24, 2003.

Herbal Remedy Might Raise Cholesterol

A study has found that an herbal remedy widely used in Asia to lower cholesterol actually might raise it instead. Guggul is the yellowish resin that is produced by the mukul myrrh (Commiphora mukul) tree, a small, thorny plant that grows throughout northern India. Since guggul is being used with increasing frequency as a cholesterol-lowering agent in the United States, researchers decided to look at the herbal remedy. They studied the short-term safety and efficacy of two doses of a standardized guggul extract in 103 healthy adults with hyperlipidemia who were eating a typical Western diet.

The study participants were given by mouth three daily doses of 1,000 mg of guggulipid, a standard dose; three higher daily doses of guggulipid at 2,000 mg; or placebo. The researchers then measured the percentage changes of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) after eight weeks of therapy.

Compared to the participants taking the placebo, whose LDL-C levels decreased by 5%, the standard-dose guggulipid had raised LDL-C levels by 4%, and the high-dose raised the levels by 5% at eight weeks. In addition, six participants on the treatment developed a rash. The researchers concluded that guggulipid did not appear to improve levels of serum cholesterol over the short term in this population of study participants.

The study appeared in the Aug. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

FDA Seizes Bogus Dietary Supplement that Claims to Cure Cancer

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. marshals have seized the dietary supplements, Forticel and Forticel Mix, from Jean’s Greens in Norway, NY. After an investigation of this company and its marketing practices, FDA has determined that Jean’s Greens is making unapproved medical claims for these herbal products. Specifically, the products claim to treat and cure various life-threatening and serious illnesses such as cancer, although there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

The seizure included 385 bottles and 78 mix packages worth more than $4,000. Because the Forticel and Forticel Mix products make disease claims, the FDA considers these products to be unapproved new drugs. Before a new drug product is approved for marketing, it must be shown to be safe and effective. Furthermore, drug product labeling also must include adequate directions for their intended use, which the seized products’ labeling did not provide.

After its investigation of the firm’s marketing practices, the FDA advised the firm that its products were making disease claims and are subject to be regulated as drugs. Despite the FDA’s warnings, the firm failed to comply. To date the FDA has received no reports of illnesses associated with taking the seized products.