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July 2, 2003

Alfred P. Fishman, MD, Named to National Committee for Establishing Policy on Complementary Therapies

National Academy of Sciences to study introduction of alternative medicines to mainstream research

(Philadelphia, PA) - Alfred P. Fishman, MD, Professor of Medicine, Senior Associate Dean for Program Development, and Director of the Office of Complementary and Alternative Therapies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been appointed to the Institute of Medicine's "Committee on the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by the American Public." The Committee, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, will conduct a one-year review of how best to identify, study, measure, and evaluate existing complementary therapies, so that they can -- if proven effective and not harmful to patients -- be incorporated into conventional medicine practices.

"It is difficult for physicians to incorporate complementary therapies into their practices because current methods for evaluating the effectiveness of complementary medicines are non-existent or non-standardized," said Fishman. "With growing numbers of Americans using complementary therapies, even while not proven, we have a responsibility to set down some ground rules for evaluating their effectiveness, because some of them do work and make people feel better."

One commonly used example, acupuncture, has become an accepted tool for relief of lower back pain and its use is backed by multiple scientific studies. Herbal remedies, however, despite their growing use, remain largely unstudied and unproven. In fact, studying their effectiveness is problematic because standards do not exist for measuring herbs. As a result, comparisons cannot be made between and across different types. For example, a teaspoon of Echinacea might vary from batch to batch.

One in four Americans use complementary and alternative therapies, making over 600 million visits to complementary therapy practitioners; one in three Americans combine both complementary and conventional medicine.

Fishman is also Penn's representative to the Consortium of the Association of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. He currently serves as Chair of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Council, Chair of the Steering Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and is also on the Board of the Directors of the Metanexus Institute. Fishman is past-President of the American Physiology Society and has served on the editorial boards of nearly a dozen major peer-reviewed, scientific journals. He is the recipient of the "Gold Heart Award" from the American Heart Association and the Trudeau medal from the American Thoracic Society - their highest awards.

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The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine was founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school. Today, the School is ranked #4 in the nation in US News and World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools; and ranked #2 in nation for receipt of NIH research funds. Penn's School of Medicine, which supports 1400 full-time faculty and 700 students, is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician/scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

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