By the ANH team

In December last year, a press release announced the plan by the European Commision (EC) to set up the CAMbrella project, (CAMbrella: a pan-European research network for complementary and alternative medicine), which will be supported with 1.5 million Euros of EC funding.

The EC’s intention is that CAMbrella will address the ‘lack of funding and scientific cooperation that hampers this area of medicine’. The EC recognizes that CAM practitioners and a growing number of citizens of the EU are turning to complementary and alternative medicine ‘for disorders they feel cannot be treated with conventional therapy’. The EC estimates that the CAM spend by consumers now tops the €100 million mark. The EC envisages that the project ‘will help boost the well-being of European citizens by creating an EU-wide road map that encompasses the preconditions for future research within complementary and alternative medicine in Europe’.

From 1st January 2010 until the end of 2012, the 16 scientific partner organisations, from 12 European countries (including the main German contact organisation, coordinating the project) will work on building a network of ‘European research institutes in complementary medicine’.

The project is also being supported by an advisory board, which includes ‘key stakeholder groups’ e.g. practitioners, patients and consumers.

EC: Research must be appropriate and acceptable


The CAMbrella Participants Newsletter summarises the goal of the project: ‘to develop a roadmap for future European research in CAM that is appropriate for the healthcare needs of EU citizens, and acceptable to the EU parliament as well as their national research funders and healthcare providers. We will enable meaningful reliable research and communication within Europe and create a sustainable structure and policy’

The EC research announcement on their website adds that CAM encompasses ‘therapies with a cultural or historical basis including herbalism, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine’.

UK CAM-bashing Professor Ernst slams project as a waste of money


The Times Higher Education reported on the 28th January 2010, that two UK professors are at loggerheads over the value of the project.

It seems that Professor Ernst believes that the project is dominated by partisan groups, and that a ‘pro-CAM’ bias would render the project a waste of money. Professor Ernst, it seems, has little difficulty with bias if it occurs in the opposite direction.  His anti-CAM biased research now registers as the single largest body of anti-CAM research produced by any research group, amounting to more than 1100 peer-reviewed publications. There are, however, grave weaknesses in the pharmaceutically-based evaluation methods used by Ernst’s group.

George Lewith, Professor of Health Research in the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at the University of Southampton, and a Foundation fellow in the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, who is participating in the CAMbrella project, has rejected the ‘negative’ criticisms of Ernst.

The Times Higher Education reports that Professor Lewith has insisted that CAMbrella is a "legitimate endeavour", and that it “would provide useful information for policy decisions. He added that all those involved in the consortium were experts in CAM and many had published papers that were critical of the efficacy of the therapies”.

Scientific research needs open minds and no predetermined agenda


ANH International welcomes any such initiatives and opportunities for future research, particularly where there appears to be no predetermined hidden agenda.

The bottom line is that consumers and practitioners have persisted with so-called CAM approaches for millennia, and continue to evolve them, because they experience positive results. The fact that these results are sometimes hard to verify under certain experimental conditions is something that anti-CAM interests have worked hard to exploit. A more open-minded review of the evidence base would suggest ample evidence for the effectiveness and safety of all modalities within the CAM field. What we need to understand better, is the conditions required for optimum efficacy, as well as what mechanisms are responsible for the effects. There are many exciting opportunities for the development of holistic approaches which combine specific modalities, dealing with each individual as whole person, and taking into account specific genomic, epigenetic and environmental factors.

Freedom of Health Choice and availability of safe natural products


In the meantime, we are deeply committed to do all we can, together with our partners in Europe, the USA and elsewhere, to protect our right to use systems of healthcare that are intrinsically compatible with our bodies. It is essential that freedom of health choice is not curtailed any further in Europe, or elsewhere in the world, and that safe natural products remain available to all who choose to use them. We will continue campaigning hard to ensure that these rights remain available for the next generation, and we are very much counting on your support!

The European Social Charter adopted by the Council of Europe (1961, revised 1996) states that: “Everyone has the right to benefit from any measures enabling them to enjoy the highest possible standard of health attainable”


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