Conventional Comparison

There is a long standing view held by many medical researchers that rejects the notion of a classification of medicines which proposes that any therapy should be characterised as Alternative Medicine. The view taken by such proponents is that there are two types of medicine, viz. that which has been rigorously tested and shown to work, and that which has undergone little if any testing and, consequently, may or may not work. This school of thought are firmly in favour of a classification of medicines which has, as its foundation, the necessity for scientific evidence to verify its efficacy. In defence of such a proposition, they take the view that alternative medicine has not been scientifically tested and that, in the main, the advocates of such medicines reject the need for any form of testing.

This method of defining alternative medicine was subsequently studied by the Institute of Medicine, or IOM (whose role is to provide advice throughout the US on issues relating to biomedical science, medicine, and health. It also provides information and advice on matters relating to health and science which is both unbiased and based on actual evidence). They concluded by saying that they found the definition problematic since a number of CAM’s, or complementary and alternative medicine, were tested whereas a good proportion of mainstream medicine lacks strong corroborating evidence.

The IOM conducted a study of 160 Cochrane (the Cochrane Collaboration is a group of over 10,000 volunteers in more than 90 countries who review the effects of health care interventions tested in biomedically controlled trials) systematic reviews of mainstream techniques. The results of their study showed that 20% of the reviews were found to be ineffective, whilst a further 21 % contained insufficient evidence. In conclusion, the IOM broadly defined alternative medicine as not the primary but more the secondary approach in relation to a particular culture or historical period.

Such a definition has been embraced by the Cochrane Collaboration, which is regarded as the leading body in respect of evidence-based medicine, as well as official government departments, such as the Department of Health in the UK.

The Cochrane Collaboration and Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in the UK, are both well known and respected advocates of evidence-based medicine. They both apply the term alternative medicine and are in agreement with the fact that all treatments, whether regarded as mainstream or alternative, should adhere to standards based on scientific evidence. Their considered opinion is that evidence-based medicine is the ideal to which one should strive. However, such a position has yet to be achieved by either the prevailing mainstream or alternative medicine.

Professor Ernst is of the opinion that the evidence supporting many alternative techniques is either weak, nonexistent, or what may be regarded simply as negative.
However, he makes it clear that there is compelling evidence for other alternative techniques, in particular acupuncture and certain herbs. On the other hand, such evidence does not mean that these treatments are mainstream, especially not so in a worldwide context.

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Author's Bio: 

Peter Radford writes Articles with Websites on a wide range of subjects. Alternatives Articles cover Background, Definitions, Traditional Comparison, Contemporary Use.

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