Al­ter­na­tive medicine gets $1.7m ex­tra re­search boost

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Adam Cress­well

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.’’

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