NICM Newsletter 13

August 2013

Director's message

I am delighted to be able to share details of some very significant developments for NICM and some important contributions to the sector.

Our most important and significant development is the decision to bring CompleMED, which as many of you know has an excellent ten year track record in world class research, and the National Institute together under the one governance framework. The move will consolidate our place within the national research landscape for complementary medicines as a world class research, policy and representative body generating preclinical, clinical and public policy benefits.

The move comes at a very important time for the sector, as we respond to tremendous community and government interest in the potential for complementary medicines as part of an integrated approach to the challenges facing our health system today. In some aspects, opinions are polarised. Misinformation and an apparent lack of will to invest in evidence-based research are constraining factors as we seek to maximise the benefits of complementary approaches to health care. NICM's next phase will maximise the collective positioning of the two entities in the national landscape, their critical mass, their capacity to attract research funding, the ERA 5 ranking gained by UWS for this area of concentration, and the combined track record in and potential for international collaboration.

The new governance arrangements for NICM will support a robust and independent national voice on the potentials and challenges of integrating evidence based complementary medicine into mainstream healthcare. We are all very excited about the possibilities this will bring.

I look forward to announcing the new Advisory Board membership and sharing more news of our activities and programs again later in the year.

Professor Alan Bensoussan
Director National Institute of Complementary Medicine

New NICM Appointments

Ms Janice Besch

Earlier this year we completed our extensive search for a new managing director, and we are pleased to announce that Ms Janice Besch has taken up the role from 1st July this year. Her expertise in the research sector will be invaluable in guiding NICM's strategic direction and will strengthen the Institute's position as a key international research centre for complementary medicine.

Janice is an experienced senior executive with a demonstrable track record in operational and budgetary management in the tertiary, not-for-profit and government sectors. Most recently she held the position of Deputy Director of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and was previously Director of the Research Office/Grants Management Office at both UNSW and Macquarie University (spanning 2005-2012). She has significant experience in growing research grant income, policy development, governance issues and brokering federal and state partnerships. In addition, her successful track record of working with the media and steering complex organisations with multiple stakeholders through change and development would certainly be an asset in the next phase of our development.

As Managing Director of NICM Janice will be charged with managing NICM's operations, implementing NICM's strategic plan, further developing our business model and guiding the next phase of development of NICM.

Associate Professor Lesley Braun

Associate Professor Lesley Braun has commenced in NICM as a 0.4 fractional appointment. Lesley has been at the forefront of complementary medicine research in Australia for many years, and her unique expertise particularly in relation to her well-known text book, Herbs and Natural Supplements, will assist the Institute in the evaluation and communication of scientific evidence at point of sale and to clinicians, and in developing our media communications. In addition, she will be involved in facilitating clinical research. She has worked closely with the Institute since its inception and was a member of the NICM Collaborative Centre for Natural Medicines and Neurocognition.

Lesley has trained and worked as both a pharmacist and a naturopath in Australia and completed a PhD at RMIT investigating complementary medicines in Victorian hospitals. She was a technical consultant to the complementary medicine industry for over 10 years and taught at the Australian College of Natural Medicine. She is also a senior teaching associate for the Department of Medicine, Monash University (Alfred Hospital), research pharmacist (the Alfred Hospital), honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Monash/Alfred Psychiatric Research Centre and is involved in conducting clinical trials and other research regarding nutritional and complementary medicine in hospital wards.

Lesley has an excellent understanding of the Australian healthcare landscape. She is currently a member of the TGA's Advisory Committee on Complementary Medicines (ACCM) and Australian Therapeutic Goods Advisory Council (ATGAC), National eHealth Transition Authority (NeHTA) medicines terminology committee, Executive Director of the National Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA), an advisory board member of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA) and on the executive committee for the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) Complementary and Integrative Therapies Interest group which liaises with oncologists, oncology pharmacists, nurses and researchers.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) for Clinical Trials

NICM has published 18 separate SOPs for clinical trials as a result of preliminary work and contribution by members of NICM's Collaborative Centre in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Two key aims of NICM are to support high quality clinical research in complementary medicine in Australia, and to ensure clinical trials are undertaken using Good Clinical Practice (GCP) standards. These SOPs aim to facilitate and improve the standardisation and quality of clinical research in Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbal medicine and acupuncture) specifically, but can be easily adapted to other forms of complementary medicine. As such they are an important new resource for those researchers establishing clinical trials into the safety and efficacy of complementary medicines and will assist in building capacity for clinical research in complementary medicine in Australia.

These documents may be accessed here. They are available as PDF files, although MS word versions can be provided on request. A hard copy will be published during this month.

The Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies

The Review of the Australian Government rebate on Private Health Insurance for natural therapies was announced in the 2012-13 Budget.

The Review's purpose is to ensure that taxpayer funds that are paid through the rebate to subsidise natural therapies are underpinned by a credible evidence base that demonstrates their clinical efficacy, cost effectiveness and safety and quality.

NICM has made a submission to the committee heading the Review, recommending in favour of retaining the health fund rebate for most complementary medicine services on the bases of no major public safety risks, reasonable preliminary evidence of efficacy for certain diseases, and ensuring better access and affordability for individual patients irrespective of social and economic circumstances.

Review the NICM submission here.

NICM Director receives international award for Chinese Medicine research

Professor Alan Bensoussan has been recognised for his global impact on Chinese Medicine research and regulation with a prestigious award from the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS) in Beijing.

Professor Bensoussan received the International Award for Contribution to Chinese Medicine at a special ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 29 June 2013. The International Award for the Contribution to Chinese Medicine is the only world-wide prize in Chinese medicine awarded by the Chinese Government.

The prize is awarded every 1 to 2 years to groups or individuals who have made outstanding achievements in medical treatment, teaching, research, legislation, or have made a special contribution to the international dissemination of Chinese medicine.

Three prizes were awarded this year and Professor Bensoussan is the only recipient based outside the People's Republic of China.

Professor Bensoussan has forged a broad network of links with national and international organisations within government and industry, including major collaborative research projects with key institutions in China. His work has also contributed to the development of clinical trial protocols for Chinese medicine, and improved Chinese medicine practitioner and product regulation in Australia.

UWS Complementary Medicine Research Ranked Well Above World Standard

The Australian Research Council's Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessed NICM and CompleMED research in complementary medicine in 2012, giving it the highest ranking of 'well above world-class' (ERA 5).

Research priorities for complementary medicine

The NICM Research Priorities Report based on the work of NICM Working Groups will be published on the NICM website in August and will also be available in hard copy. This first report focuses predominantly on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and dementia with additional commentary on diabetes, wellness evaluation and traditional Chinese medicine.

Upcoming Conferences

Complementary Healthcare Council Conference

3 and 5 September 2013
Sofitel Sydney Wentworth
Sydney, Australia

The Complementary Healthcare Council (CHC) Conference will be held between 3 and 5 September 2013 and will bring together a diverse range of International and Australian speakers, along with representatives from a cross-section of the complementary medicines (CM) industry.

Australasian Integrative Medicine Association Conference

18 -20 October 2013
Surfers Paradise Mariott Resort
Surfers Paradise, Queensland

The Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA) is an independent not for profit organisation of individual medical practitioners seeking to provide whole person medical care by integrating evidence-based complementary medicine into mainstream practice. AIMA is supported by its membership and governed by a Board of voluntary doctors and academic leaders in the field of integrative medicine.

WFAS Conference

2 – 4 November 2013
Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre,
Darling Harbour, Australia

The World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies (WFAS) is the peak international body for acupuncture and the Non-Government Organisation in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Acupuncture. The WFAS celebrates its 25th year in 2013, culminating in the 8th World Conference on Acupuncture in Sydney in November.

Australian Self Medication Industry Conference and Awards Dinner

14 November 2013
Venue to be advised 

Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak body representing companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of consumer healthcare products in Australia.

International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health Conference

13-16 May 2014
Hyatt Regency
Miami, Florida, USA

International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health is a worldwide scientific non-profit professional organization of researchers, practitioners and policy makers devoted to foster co-operative and multidisciplinary research and development as well as the application of knowledge in the fields of Complementary, Traditional and Integrative Medicine.