Looking for Alternatives

British scientists should beef up their research on alternative medicine, according to a report issued last week by the House of Lords. Answering their call, a foundation headed by Prince Charles offered to fund research into alternative medicine and is eagerly awaiting the government's response.

Noting a dearth of high-quality research in alternative medicine, the House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee urged the National Health Service and the Medical Research Council on 28 November to develop a few "centres of excellence." The committee pointed to the U.S. government's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, as a possible model. The report added that the work should ultimately be guided by a clearinghouse that is partly funded by the government.

In a separate report, the Foundation for Integrated Medicine, an advocacy group headed by Prince Charles, offered to fill that role. It outlined a 5-year, $7 million plan to jump-start new research, support existing studies at medical schools, and fund 5-year fellowships to train medical students in research methods for alternative medicine. Right now, the field is "not particularly respectable as a research career," notes the foundation's Tricia Darnell. Increasing funding would make it "more mainstream," she says.

The foundation hopes for backing from the U.K. Department of Health, but admits that the agency has been "lukewarm" to the idea. Meanwhile, the foundation welcomes feedback (see below) and is waiting for a government response to the House of Lords' report.

Related sites
The House of Lords' Report
To voice your opinion on the Foundation for Integrated Medicine's plan
NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine