Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States


Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has grown rapidly among the U.S. public, with more than one-third of adults reporting that they have pursued some form of these treatments, which include products such as herbal remedies, techniques such as acupuncture, and schools of practice such as naturopathy.

At the request of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the IOM produced the report titled Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, which assesses what is known about Americans' reliance on those therapies and also assists the NIH in developing research methods and setting priorities for evaluating products and approaches within CAM. 

The report states that health care should strive to be both comprehensive and evidence-based and calls for conventional medical treatments and complementary and alternative treatments to be held to the same standards for demonstrating clinical effectiveness.  Both also should follow the same general research principles, although new research methods to test some therapies may have to be devised. The report also calls on Congress to work with stakeholders to amend the regulation of supplements to improve quality control and consumer protections and to create incentives for research on the efficacy of these products.