NICM Newsletter 12

May 2012

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2012

Director's Message

Philanthropic support!!

It is with great pleasure that we keep you informed of the developments at NICM. Most of you will know we saw a rather heroic end to 2011, with the strong philanthropic support for NICM by the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies. The Jacka Foundation has supported the establishment of a Professorial Chair in Complementary Medicine Research at the University of Western Sydney. This will be the lead executive role at NICM.

This initiative and foresight from the Jacka Foundation was also supported by key companies, including SOHO-Flordis International, Blackmores and Catalent. Each donor has assisted NICM shore up its capacity to undertake its work priorities over the coming years. Philanthropic support is critical to NICM at this stage of its development and we are extremely grateful for this funding boost and for our donors' commitment to complementary medicine research. The University of Western Sydney recognises the extensive community and sector support for complementary medicine research and is also making significant contributions to ensuring the stability and growth of NICM. A media release related to this announcement was published late last year: Dec 16. 2011 Leading national complementary medicine agency to receive significant funding

The University of Western Sydney is currently undertaking an international search to recruit a new Director (Ref 287/12 Director, Jacka Foundation Chair of Complementary Medicine Research ). Once the next Director and the team are recruited, NICM will recommence its activities in full swing. Ongoing philanthropic support for complementary medicine research is critically needed in order to build and support the scientific evidence base. Over the next three years NICM will focus on creating better incentives to invest in research through regulatory reform and improving integration of evidence-based interventions into mainstream practice. The Institute will continue to identify and refine national research priorities, contribute to the development of clinical practice guidelines and work alongside government, consumers, industry and other stakeholders to strengthen relevant policy.

Support for NICM as an independent national agency for policy development and to foster rigorous research in complementary medicine remains strong.

NICM early achievements

The National Institute was established at the University of Western Sydney in 2007 with two years seed funding in joint, bipartisan support from the Commonwealth and NSW Governments. During its first years of operation NICM established three Collaborative Centres with the primary aim of building capacity and collaborations in the sector. The Collaborative Centres have leveraged substantial additional funding from industry and supported the professional development of 13 PhD students and 21 postdoctoral fellows and research associates. NICM has also demonstrated the cost effectiveness of a range of complementary medicine interventions in collaboration with Access Economics, funded several integrative healthcare pilot studies (two with the National Breast Cancer Foundation) and galvanised a $75M strong Cooperative Research Centre bid. NICM has also made significant progress in advancing collaborative national research priorities in complementary medicine research. The Institute has provided the vital link between researchers, practitioners, industry and government and has established a reputation as an independent, authoritative voice for the complementary medicine sector.

Friends of Science?

Complementary medicine treatments are used by 2 in 3 Australians each year and have been taught in Australian universities for two decades. The negative media campaign initiated by the self named 'Friends of Science in Medicine' (FSM) is an unfortunate and retrograde step for the debate in science and openness in healthcare. The FSM have been campaigning against the university education of complementary medicine practitioners, including traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic and other modalities, and urge caution against investment in complementary medicine research. To this end the FSM have been lobbying university vice chancellors and a wide range of scientists, both clinical and non-clinical.

The University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor recently announced a new centre focussing on Chinese medicine research ( This initiative demonstrates respect for indigenous knowledge and will draw down on the accumulated clinical experience of Chinese medicine practitioners over the centuries. This initiative could only exist on the back of the continuous clinical training of doctors in traditional Chinese medicine. Without the practice of Chinese medicine there would be little to investigate.

Therapeutic foods, medicinal herbs and pharmaceutical drugs all need to be studied in university, each for their important clinical roles. Herbal medicines generate an important scientific challenge in medical research in that combination of compounds in herbal formulations appear to be working in a gradual but synergistic fashion to impact on the multi-factorial nature of disease. Research into the complex interactions of herbal compounds represents an important challenge to our current dominant approach to pharmaceutical disease management with a preferred focus on one principal target receptor. Similarly, acupuncture with its range of neurophysiological effects, encourages us to think more broadly about potential therapeutic approaches to managing functional disorders.

A strong link between the research and teaching of complementary medicine in Australian universities helps ensure the fruits of the research are rapidly and effectively communicated to clinicians to help strengthen evidence based clinical practice. In the UK there are university-funded courses in chiropractic, osteopathy and more recently in herbal medicine, including Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese herbal medicine is administered routinely in the world's largest hospitals for many chronic diseases. There is no better place than our universities to rigorously discern what works from what doesn't in an Australian context. To impose greater barriers to this translation of research into practice is counter-productive to quality care of patients.

Judging by some communications it is clear that not all FSM signatories have been aware of the extent and agenda of the FSM campaign and have expressed their dismay. We believe that a negative campaign can only encourage patients and practices to go underground – contrary to the aims of Australia's National Medicines Policy. Communicating disregard for patient choice risks intimidating patients from disclosing complementary medicine use to their doctors which is counterproductive to safe and effective clinical care.

Complementary medicine has for good reasons attracted consumer interest spanning many decades. It is our ethical responsibility to examine, teach and promote its appropriate use and practice.

Complementary medicine is important to our healthcare system. The scientific evidence is increasingly clear that some complementary medicine interventions offer substantial value through improved clinical outcomes and reducing the burden of chronic disease. Complementary medicine can make a cost-effective contribution to public health in chronic disease management, preventative care and aged care. For further report see the Importance of Complementary Medicine.

Professor Alan Bensoussan

NICM Interim Director


NICM conference – Policy Perspectives in Complementary Medicine

NICM hosted a one-day symposium in February 2012 to discuss the influences and drivers of complementary medicine usage and policy development. International guests joined with senior researchers, clinicians, sociologists, industry representatives and government to discuss current trends in CM policy in Australia. We were fortunate to welcome two highly regarded scholars from the UK, Professor George Lewith and Dr Nicola Gale, who provided an update on the pan-European network, CAMbrella. Topics included an update of CM policy in Europe, presentation of CM in the media and equity of access to CM.

Industry News

Release of revised draft TGA evidence guidelines

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has released a new draft consultation document outlining the evidence required to support indications for Listed medicines. This is an important document in that it seeks to address issues raised during recent TGA reviews. Comment is invited by May 25.

Call for Papers – European Journal of Integrative Medicine – Special Issue

The European Journal of Integrative Medicine has put out a call for papers for a special issue, which will focus on "Public Health in Integrative Medicine".

Researchers with findings from contemporary empirical data/fieldwork (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods) that address public health/health services research questions are invited to submit manuscript for this special issue.

Deadline for manuscript submissions: June 30, 2012

Manuscripts can be submitted online to: or contact the editorial co-ordinator Dr. Ava Lorenc at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ten of the Best

The National Health and Medical Research Council has released their Ten of the Best Research Projects 2011.   It describes ten Australian health and medical research projects chosen from among the thousands of NHMRC funded medical research projects being undertaken in Australia.

A number of these projects reference the role of nutrition and diet in health outcomes such as the introduction of folate in flour to reduce birth defects.


International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health
May 15-18, 2012

The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine will host the third International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront in May this year.

IRCIMH's mission is to foster the development of new collaborations and to strengthen existing partnerships.   This Congress will showcase original scientific research through eight keynote and plenary sessions, oral and poster presentations, and innovative sessions.  Areas of Integrative Medicine and health research presented and discussed at the Congress will include basic science, clinical trials, lifestyle and prevention, methodology, health services, cost effectiveness, and education.

See website -

Mechanism-Based Natural Product Development Conference 21-22 September 2012

Whistler Mountain Convention Centre, Canada

This conference will bring together scientists working the area of research and discovery of therapeutics to discuss the research and development of new natural medicine therapies. It will explore new directions in natural medicine, and the integration of complementary and orthodox medicines for better health outcomes.

To register your interest or submit and abstract visit

International Congress for Complementary Medicine Research 11-13 April, 2013

Central London

This congress marks the 10th anniversary of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research (ISCMR). ISCMR is an international professional, multidisciplinary, non-profit scientific organisation devoted to fostering Complementary and Integrative Medicine research.  It provides a platform for knowledge and information exchange to enhance international communication and collaboration.