Policy on complementary and alternative medicine

1. The mission of the Wellcome Trust is to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health.

2. The Trust believes that it is becoming increasingly important that the therapies used in complementary and alternative medicine are properly assessed both for the benefit and the protection of the public. In particular, questions of safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness need to be addressed. Wellcome Trust-funded research can play an important role in the understanding of mechanisms underlying therapies.

3. The Trust will fund applications in CAM of high scientific quality that fulfil its eligibility criteria. Our current view is that existing Trust funding mechanisms are adequate to assess CAM proposals. However, applications have to compete with other biomedical research proposals for funding through the normal channels. Thus, to avoid bias, our scientific officers go to great lengths to select referees with the necessary expertise to peer review proposals.

4. The Trust's History of Medicine Programme offers opportunities to explore the development and understanding of CAM therapies by exploring the cultural, social and economic contexts of these areas.

The Wellcome Trust is aware of the limited research capacity within the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which the House of Lords inquiry addressed1.

Wellcome has funded a range of research projects within the History of Medicine Programme, including studies on:

Our science funding grants have also included studies on:

Workshop to explore the issues facing CAM research

The aim of the workshop we hosted on 10 March 2000 was to inform our future policy and to stimulate discussion among CAM practitioners, researchers and policy makers.

The participants comprised an international audience (85 people) and speakers from Australia, Europe, China, India, USA, Canada and the UK. CAM and orthodox practitioners, covering a wide spectrum of therapies and organisations, were represented.

It was established at the workshop that the majority of CAM practitioners have a number of constraints that make it difficult for them to pursue a research career. Many CAM practitioners do not have time to undertake research, due to the demands of running a practice. Furthermore, there are currently few career development opportunities in CAM research; more would be needed to attract people into the field.

A number of recommendations were made at the workshop, addressing ways in which research capacity could be increased in the UK:

1Select Committee on Science and Technology, Sub-Committee III - Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The Trust gave oral evidence on 23 May 2000.

Contact us

If you have questions about any of our policies, contact the policy team.