The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is pushing for tougher regulations on dietary supplements to ensure that they are safe and that they accomplish what they claim. The IOM recommends that Congress take the necessary steps to require improved quality control of supplements and to provide incentives to study the effectiveness of the products.
In its 327-page report, the institute also urges that complementary and alternative medical procedures be required to meet the same standards of efficacy as traditional medical treatments. Unlike drugs that require FDA approval, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act permits the sale of supplements unless the FDA can prove them harmful.
Stephen E. Straus, MD, director of the government's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, agreed with the institute's recommendation, saying that requiring the same research standards "will further the scientific investigation of this new field, increase its legitimacy as a research area, and ultimately improve public health."
A Harvard Medical School study, reported in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (January 2005), found that 35% of Americans use some form of alternative medicine. Lead author of the study Hilary Tindle, MD, reported that such widespread use demonstrates the need for study of the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of these approaches.