$4m shot in the arm for alternatives
ONE of the biggest discrepancies in modern healthcare — that herbal and other alternative treatments have little of the formal scientific evidence demanded of prescription drugs — will be tackled after the federal Government announced a $4 million grant to establish a new National Institute for Complementary Medicine.
The new institute, to be based at the Campbelltown campus of the University of Western Sydney, will work out the priorities for future research projects looking at socalled natural therapies, which are thought to be soaring in popularity in Australia.
Announcing the grant last week, federal health minister Tony Abbott said Australians now spent about $1 billion each year on complementary and alternative medicines, such as vitamins, homeopathic medicines and traditional Asian medicines.
Two in three Australians are estimated to use some form of complementary medicine or treatment each year, including vitamins, herbal treatments, mineral supplements and other therapies.
The $4 million grant comes on top of the $5 million the federal Government announced late last year it would give the National Health and Medical Research Council for specific research projects in complementary medicine.
News of the latest grant has been welcomed by other complementary medicine experts. Professor Marc Cohen, president of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association which promotes the use of proven complementary medicines in mainstream medical practice, said the new institute ‘‘ promises to provide research outcomes directly relevant to many National Health Priority areas, as well as increase Australia’s capacity to contribute to the world’s knowledge of many widely used medicines’’.
‘‘ While the majority of the Australian community regularly use some form of complementary medicine, to date there has been a severe lack of funding supporting high quality research in this area, and much of this use is not guided by scientific research,’’ Professor Cohen said.
Interim director of the new institute is Professor Alan Bensoussan, currently director of the UWS CompleMED Research Centre, who played a central role in setting up the NICM.
Professor Bensoussan told Weekend Health that there were ‘‘ a huge number of Continued inside, page 21