LONDON Harvard Medical School is to create a new research centre to evaluate rigorously complementary and integrative medical treatments. It will be funded by a $10 million grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation and headed by associate professor David Eisenberg. Like the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH and the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF, both established within the past three years, the new centre signals a growing interest in subjecting complementary therapies to scientific scrutiny.

Eisenberg and colleagues have reported (JAMA 1998, 280:1569-1575) that in the US in 1997, the estimated total number of visits to alternative medicine practitioners exceeded the estimated total number of visits to all primary care physicians. In addition, they estimated a total of $27 billion out-of-pocket expenditures relating to alternative therapies during 1997, which was comparable to the projected out-of-pocket expenditures for all US physician-rendered services...

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