CAM, conventional therapies held to same research standard

In a new report, the Institute of Medicine calls for conventional medical treatments and complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments to be held to the same standards for demonstrating clinical effectiveness to make it easier for health care providers and the public to make evidence-based decisions about CAM use.

The report says the same general research principles should be followed in evaluating both types of treatments, although innovative methods to test some therapies may have to be devised. It says randomized controlled trials are the "gold standard" for providing evidence of efficacy, but that other study designs can generate useful information on treatments that do not lend themselves to such trials.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Agency for Health Care Research and Quality sponsored the study to help NIH develop research methods and set priorities for evaluating CAM products and approaches. More than a third of U.S. adults report using some form of CAM, which includes chiropractic and acupuncture to herbal remedies.