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July 17, 1996

Defining and Assessing Alternative Medicine Practices-Reply

Author Affiliations

Cottage Hospital Santa Barbara, Calif

JAMA. 1996;276(3):196. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540030030018

In Reply.  —I agree with Dr Gorski that precise definitions of alternative medicine are needed. Unfortunately, a clear and concise definition has yet to be created.The original title of my article was "Alternative/Adjunctive/ Unconventional/ Complementary Medicine," emphasizing the variety of terms applied to this emerging area. The definition I cited was from an article on the current status of alternative health practices.1 Dr Wayne Jonas, director of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary and alternative medicine as "those practices that do not form part of the dominant system for managing health and disease."2I prefer the terms "complementary" or "adjunctive" to "alternative", emphasizing the use with, not instead of, medical therapy. Currently, the terms "complementary" and "alternative" are being used.The National Institutes of Health has 42 studies on alternative medicine that have been reviewed and determined worthy of funding. The following