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Alternative Therapies Awareness Encouraged by Government

Posted: April 14, 2009

Showing a major opportunity for the development of alternative therapies, a new study shows many practicing clinicians aren't aware of federal government support of these types of treatments.

About 25% of practicing clinicians in the United States aren't aware of two major federal government-funded clinical trials of complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies, a new survey has found. The survey, which included 1,561 acupuncturists, naturopaths, internists and rheumatologists, also found that many clinicians aren't fully confident in their ability to interpret research results.

CAM therapies are widely used in the United States, but it's only been in recent years that rigorous studies of the safety and effectiveness of the treatments have been conducted, according to background information in the study. For example, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has spent more than $2 billion on research into CAM therapies in the past decade.

The survey found that 59% of the respondents were aware of at least one of two major clinical trails recently published on CAM therapies for osteoarthritis of the knee (one on acupuncture and one on the supplement glucosamine), and 23% were aware of both trials. Rheumatologists (49%) and acupuncturists (46%) were more likely to be aware of the acupuncture study than naturopaths (30%) and general internists (22%). Rheumatologists (88%) and internists (59%) were more likely to know about the glucosamine trial than naturopaths (39%) and acupuncturists (20%).

The survey also found that a minority of respondents said they were "very confident" in their ability to critically interpret research literature: 33% of rheumatologists, 25% of naturopaths, 20% of acupuncturists and 17% of internists. Most said they were "moderately confident": 67% of internists, 64% of naturopaths, 59% of acupuncturists and 59% of rheumatologists.