National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Systematic Review of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Project Concept Review

Council Date: June 3, 2011

Program Director: Wendy Weber, N.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. Email: weberwj@mail.nih.gov

Background

Clinical research studies are typically performed by distinct groups of researchers and the findings of a particular trial may or may not be the same as those of previously published studies. This can lead to difficulties in interpreting the results of clinical studies and ultimately lead to confusion by health care practitioners as they try to select the best treatment for their patients. The sometimes contradictory outcomes need to be resolved to clarify the direction of the collective evidence to enable practitioners to offer the most appropriate therapy for their patients.

In 1992, an international group of scientists launched a process systematically evaluating and updating existing evidence concerning how medical practice is carried out. These scientists also conceived a means for timely dissemination of the existing evidence for the practice of medicine. This new statistical and review method or “Systematic Review” is a painstaking process of searching all the published literature, selecting the most appropriate studies, summarizing the study results in a systematic and unbiased manner, and writing the findings in a manuscript format describing the results of summary or the 'current best evidence.' Such manuscripts are usually published by medical journals or specialized review groups. The review of all published literature on a given topic and summarizing the results in a systematic and unbiased manner provide a 'current best evidence' for health care practitioners to base their recommendations for patients. The field of complementary and alternative medicine has benefited greatly from the publication of numerous systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Purpose of Proposed Initiative

The purpose of this initiative is to support research team(s) to conduct and update a series of high quality systemic reviews and meta-analyses on published reports of complementary and alternative medicine treatments and interventions. The research team will be expected to utilize the rigorous guidelines established by high-quality professional review groups. The development and/or maintenance of a database of CAM randomized clinical trials will facilitate the conduction of systematic reviews by the team of investigators and others in the CAM scientific community. Publication of CAM systematic reviews will provide unbiased collective evidence of the effects of CAM interventions, which are of great benefit to the scientific community.

Objectives

The objectives to be met by this concept include the following:

  • Completion of several new high quality systematic reviews and meta-analyses if appropriate over the entire funding period
  • Updating of several systematic reviews and meta-analyses over the entire funding period
  • Development and/or maintenance of a database of primary reports of CAM randomized controlled trials
  • Dissemination of published systematic reviews
  • Outreach to the CAM scientific community regarding the availability of the database and support for systematic reviews by others
  • Promotion of international collaboration for conducting systematic reviews
  • Education and training of the CAM scientific community about the methodology of conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses.