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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 April, 2003, 23:52 GMT 00:52 UK
Complementary therapy research boost
Public interest in alternative health is growing
The government is to pump more than a million pounds into research projects involving alternative medicine, it was announced on Monday.

The 1.3m will be used to investigate the health benefits of acupuncture, homeopathy and other branches of "complementary" therapy.

The money has been split between five researchers looking at different complementary fields.

These include the use of alternative medicines for asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and acupuncture for depression.


The effectiveness of alternative therapies remains controversial.

Recent investigations of asthma and homeopathy suggested that the treatment made no difference whatsoever.

Increasingly, the population is turning to complementary and alternative medicine sources
Health Minister Hazel Blears
Acupuncture is the only therapy to have performed well in a series of trials, although doctors still cannot determine how it might work.

Elsewhere, evidence for the success or failure of complementary therapies is patchy.

However, the UK public is keen on these therapies - researchers say that we spend 130m a year on remedies and treatments, a market expected to grow to almost 200m by 2008.

Surveys suggest that half of all adults have visited some kind of "alternative" therapist - if more mainstream therapies such as osteopathy are included.

The European Union, however, is preparing tough new rules which some manufacturers say will force a number of remedies from sale.

Doctors warn that some alternative medicines have the ability to interact with conventional drugs, with possibly harmful effects.

Experts say that more investigation is needed into the effects of these combinations.

Health Minister Hazel Blears said: "Increasingly, the population is turning to complementary and alternative medicine sources as well as utilising mainstream medicine.

"The development of a solid evidence base for complementary and alternative medicine is therefore important.

"I anticipate it will underpin the future integration of all forms of therapy."

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