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Saturday, February 16, 2008

RAND Corp., Samueli Institute Create Endowment to Study Alternative, Complementary, Integrative Medicine

The RAND Corporation and the Samueli Institute have created an endowment to support independent policy research on complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, organization officials announced today.

The Samueli Institute Fund for Policy Studies in Integrative Medicine at RAND will be established with a $2 million gift from the Samueli Institute and $1 million in funding from RAND. The Samueli Institute is a nonprofit scientific research organization based in Alexandria, Va., and RAND is a nonprofit public policy research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif.

"Many hospitals and other medical providers are looking to integrate complementary and alternative medical practices into their current treatment systems, but they often are unsure which ones have demonstrated value," says James Thomson, president and CEO of RAND. "This gift will make possible the type of high-quality research needed to answer those questions."

"Currently, patients are left on their own when attempting to integrate complementary and alternative practices with their conventional care," says Wayne Jonas, president and CEO of the Samueli Institute. "Proper integration requires good evidence and sound policies. This endowment and chair will provide the nation and patients with objective analysis and effective solutions for guiding the health care system and personal care, toward better integration."

Ian Coulter, a senior health policy analyst at RAND who has been named as the Samueli Institute Chair in Policy for Integrative Medicine at RAND, says alternative and complementary medicine can include approaches such as acupuncture, chiropractic, spirituality, naturopathy, herbal medicine, yoga and meditation. Integrative medicine refers to the combination of alternative approaches with traditional biomedicine.

"Millions of Americans are using some form of complementary or alternative medicine in addition to biomedical treatment, but very little research has been done to establish which treatments are most effective, for what conditions and under which circumstances," Coulter says. "In some cases, a particular kind of complementary or alternative medicine may work best as an adjunct therapy, such as using acupuncture to combat nausea from chemotherapy. In other cases, the alternative therapy may be the best treatment by itself."

Then there's the question of how to integrate complementary, alternative and integrative medicine into a mainstream medical practice, Coulter said. The research fund, which will be managed by RAND Health, will address that question. The fund also will support:

  • Descriptive studies that will define complementary and alternative medicine practices and identify what kinds of health problems they can effectively treat.
  • The creation of innovative research methods for investigating complementary, alternative and integrative medicine.
  • The development of an evaluation process for health care systems' performance, including regulation, quality of care, financing and costs in relation to the integration of complementary and alternative medicine with traditional biomedicine.

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