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NCH Response to Proposed NCCAM Name Change

June 6, 2014

NCH submitted the following comment in response to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's proposed name change:

June 6, 2014

TO: Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., Director, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

RE: The National Center for Research on Complementary and Integrative Health

The National Center for Homeopathy, a national non-profit membership organization, represents nearly 12,000 healthcare consumers and providers who use homeopathy. Our mission is to educate about the use of homeopathy and advocate for its inclusion within the U.S. healthcare system. We are submitting our comments regarding the proposed NCCAM name change.

We fully support the addition of the word “research” to the name. This research is noted in NCCAM's legal mandate:

The Director of the Center shall, as appropriate, study the integration of alternative treatment, diagnostic and prevention systems, modalities and disciplines with the practice of conventional medicine as a complement to such medicine and into health care delivery systems in the United States.” (S.2420, July 31, 1998) 

However, NCH expresses concern that the removal of the term 'Alternative' could imply a lessening of importance into research on systems and disciplines such as homeopathy, which can be used alternatively, integratively, and/or complementarily. In the absence of the word 'Alternative' in the new NCCAM name, the intent of the law may be lost, resulting in diminished research priorities for these modalities. NCH strongly supports explicit inclusion of homeopathy in its research agenda as NCCAM fulfills its responsibility to support the study of 'alternative modalities, systems and disciplines' AND their integration 'into health care delivery systems in the U.S.'

According to the World Health Organization, homeopathy is the second most common form of alternative medicine in the world, and the most common in North America and in higher income countries generally:

“The analysis suggests that at some stage in a TCAM (Traditional Medicine / Complementary / Alternative Medicine) therapy's development, it becomes the preferred medicine of those who are economically better off. It would appear that the greater economic development may allow for health, lifestyle and value changes... [and] may also permit any possible dissatisfaction with conventional medical treatments to be voiced. …TCAM in higher-income countries, as seen from a number of recent studies... is generally perceived as offering more satisfactory practitioner-patient interaction and care. .. We believe that we are at a point where the commonly popular complementary and alternative medicines within industrialized countries (such as homeopathy, osteopathy and chiropractic) have already completed the transition to preferred medicines of the rich.” (WHO Global Atlas of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2005)

However, homeopathy’s popularity and widespread use extends far beyond high-income countries not only because of its effectiveness, but also because of its affordability as compared to conventional medicine. A 2005 study of 1.25 million patient visits in India estimated an 80% cost per patient savings with homeopathic treatment versus conventional treatment. Similar costs-savings have been reported in higher-income countries. A 2003 U.K. study found that when homeopathic treatment was made available to patients, visits to general practitioners decreased by 70% and expenses for medications were reduced by 50%. An independent study in the U.K. estimated that if only 4% of primary care physicians were to offer homeopathy as a major frontline approach to treatment, this would result in an annual saving for the NHS of £190 million.

Homeopathy’s popularity as a healthcare system of choice is quickly growing in the US. Sales of homeopathic and herbal remedies have increased by 16% over the past 5 years according to an independent market research report in 2013. This report also found that 30% of respondents who suffered an ailment within the past year claimed to have used a homeopathic or herbal remedy to treat it. Mintel also forecasts sales of homeopathic and herbal remedies to increase to $7.5 billion by 2017 as more Americans become proactive about their health.

We believe that homeopathy is a crucial discipline for providing alternative quality health care including prevention, promotion of health and management of chronic disease. We urge you to retain the word “Alternative” in NCCAM.

NCH welcomes further dialogue on NCCAM's name change and future agenda.  

Sincerely,

NCH Board of Directors                                                      

  • Ann Jerome, PhD, CCH, RSHom(NA), President                    
  • Joe Lillard, MPA, Vice President
  • Loretta Butehorn, PhD, CCH, Secretary
  • Edward Conway, MBA, Treasurer
  • Abby Beale, CCH
  • Douglas Falkner, MD, M.Hom.
  • Tina Quirk, RN, MS, CCH, RSHom(NA)

 NCH Executive Director

  • Alison Teitelbaum, MS, MPH