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Comments, Opinions, and Brief Case Reports
April 26, 2004

The "Improbability" of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Author Affiliations

Exeter, England


Copyright 2004 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2004

Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(8):914-915. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.8.914

The most prominent reason why skeptics dismiss complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is "lack of evidence": there is no reason that treatment X works for condition Y and therefore it is not reasonable to invest substantial amounts of money into researching this topic.1,2 Of course, absence of evidence does not mean that there is evidence of the absence of an effect. But, if there is no positive evidence, the probability of an effect is too small for dedication of money, time, or expertise for research. Because our resources are finite, we cannot test everything for anything. Prior probability and the need to spend our research dollars wisely demand that we pursue those lines of scientific inquiry that are most promising—and CAM is simply not among them.3

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