Alternative medicine gets $1.7m extra research boost
COMPLEMENTARY medicine research has received another boost, with a pledge from the federal Government of an additional $1.7 million to establish three new research centres that will each study the efficacy of alternative treatments for specific conditions.
The money, announced by Parliamentary Secretary for Health Jan McLucas at a complementary medicines conference in Sydney this week, will give another leg-up to the credibility of alternative treatments after the previous government’s decision to earmark $5 million to test the efficacy of herbal and alternative therapies.
Previously, most complementary medicines have suffered from a restricted evidence base of high-quality research.
The three new research centres, to be set up as collaborating centres of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine — itself announced just nine months ago — will be based at the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Swinburne University of Technology.
The UQ centre will receive $660,000 to focus on nutraceuticals and herbal medicine, with an emphasis on cardiovascular medicine, including diabetes and obesity, and ageing and skin health.
The biggest of the three grants, of $734,000, goes to the Sydney centre — in fact a consortium of eight universities — which will have a remit to look at traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including acupuncture. The research will include an examination of how these might benefit in diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.
The third centre, for the study of natural medicines and neurocognition, will study how natural medicines might help in improving memory and brain function. Based at Swinburne, it will receive $350,000.
Announcing the grants, Senator McLucas said the complementary medicine sector
represents a substantial proportion of activity in the Australian health care sector’’.
More than $2 billion is spent nationally, with up to two-thirds of the Australian adult population using at least one product and one in four using complementary medicine services,’’ Senator McLucas said in a statement.
There is growing testimony that complementary medicine can make a significant, cost-effective contribution to public health in chronic disease management and in preventative care.
Until now there has been a gap between those who believe in and use complementary medicine, and the strength of the evidence to support that use. Today’s announcement is intended to help bridge the gap.’’