National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Listening to Differing Voices

April 19, 2010

Recently, I hosted two meetings with groups that represent disparate views of CAM research. These meetings have given me a renewed appreciation for the value of listening to differing voices and perspectives about the work we do.

My NCCAM colleagues and I know there are differing views of the value of doing CAM research. On one side, we have stakeholders who are staunch CAM advocates, and on the other side, we have CAM skeptics.

Each group has its own beliefs and opinions on the direction, importance, and value of the work that NCCAM funds. The advocates would like to see more research dollars supporting various CAM approaches while the skeptics see our research investment as giving undue credibility to unfeasible CAM modalities and want less research funding.

As I’ve stated before, our position is that science must remain neutral, and we should be strictly objective. There are compelling reasons to explore many CAM modalities, and the science should speak for itself. As we develop our next strategic plan, we’ve created a priority-setting framework to help determine which research directions to pursue:

  • Science: Is there clear scientific opportunity in studying this product? Are there methods and technologies available that permit rigorous studies to clarify biological mechanism and ultimately clinical efficacy?
  • Promise: Is there a body of evidence indicating that the product has the potential to contribute to treat troublesome or prevalent health conditions or symptoms? Or is there evidence it acts on a biological pathway of importance in health and disease?
  • Use: Is the natural product in widespread use? Does the research address a public health concern regarding efficacy, safety, or lack thereof?
  • Impact: Will the research have scientific or public impact?

Asking ourselves these questions as part of our priority-setting process will help ensure that our research reflects the responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

I continue to welcome input from all of our stakeholders. These discussions help me remain critically thoughtful about the direction of our research.

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