How can I determine whether statements made about the effectiveness of a CAM therapy are true?
Statements that manufacturers and providers of CAM therapies
may make about the effectiveness of a therapy and its other benefits can sound
reasonable and promising. However, they may or may not be backed up by
scientific evidence. Before you begin using a CAM treatment, it is a good idea
to ask the following questions:
Is there scientific evidence (not just personal stories) to
back up the statements? Ask the manufacturer or the practitioner for scientific
articles or the results of studies. They should be willing to share this
information, if it exists.
Does the Federal Government have anything to report about the
Visit the FDA online at www.fda.gov to see if there is any
information available about the product or practice. Information specifically
about dietary supplements can be found on FDA's Center for Food Safety and
Applied Nutrition Web site at www.cfsan.fda.gov. Or visit the FDA's Web
page on recalls and safety alerts at www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html.
Check with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov to see if there are any fraudulent
claims or consumer alerts regarding the therapy. Visit the Diet, Health, and
Fitness Consumer Information Web site at www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-health.htm.
Visit the NCCAM Web site, nccam.nih.gov, or call the NCCAM Clearinghouse
to see if NCCAM has any information or scientific findings to report about the
How does the provider or manufacturer describe the treatment?
The FDA advises that certain types of language may sound impressive but
actually disguise a lack of science. Be wary of terminology such as
"innovation," "quick cure," "miracle cure,"
"exclusive product," "new discovery," or "magical
discovery." Watch out for claims of a "secret formula." If a
therapy were a cure for a disease, it would be widely reported and prescribed
or recommended. Legitimate scientists want to share their knowledge so that
their peers can review their data. Be suspicious of phrases like
"suppressed by Government" or claims that the medical profession or
research scientists have conspired to prevent a therapy from reaching the
public. Finally, be wary of claims that something cures a wide range of
unrelated diseases (for example, cancer, diabetes, and AIDS). No product can
treat every disease and condition.
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While some scientific evidence exists regarding the
effectiveness of some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are
yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies--questions such as
whether they are safe, how they work, and whether they work for the diseases or
medical conditions for which they are used.
NCCAM is the Federal Government's lead agency on scientific
research of CAM. NCCAM supports research on CAM therapies to determine if they
work, how they work, whether they are effective, and who might benefit most
from the use of specific therapies.
WebMD Public Information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine