Some Notes on Brian Berman, M.D.

Stephen Barrett, MD

In February 2003, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) announced that it was assembling a committee to identify major scientific and policy issues in "complementary and alternative medicine" ("CAM") research, regulation, training, credentialing and "integration with conventional medicine." As part of this process, it posted the names of 15 appointees and asked for public comment about their suitability. Here are IOM's biographical sketch of Dr. Berman and the comments I submitted. Despite his financial conflict-of-interest and continuous overpromotion of "CAM," he was retained on the proposed committee.

IOM Description (February 2003): Brian Berman is Professor of Family Medicine and director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Integrative Medicine. Trained in family medicine and pain management as well as complementary medical approaches such as acupuncture, Dr. Berman has dedicated his career to evaluating the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine. In 1991 he founded the first U.S. academic medical center-based program for complementary medicine. He is principal investigator (P.I.) of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) specialized center grant for the study of complementary medicine in the treatment of arthritis and related disorders and P.I. or co-P.I. on a number of large NIH and Department of Defense-funded clinical trials on modalities such as acupuncture and mind/body therapies The results of his research and of systematic reviews he has conducted of the literature in complementary medicine have been published in journals such as Pain, Rheumatology, Annals of Internal Medicine and the Journal of Family Practice. Dr. Berman chaired the ad hoc advisory committee to the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine when it opened in 1992, as well as the report to the NIH on alternative medicine. Subsequently, he served on their advisory committee for 6 years. Dr. Berman also helped found and now serves as field coordinator for the complementary medicine field of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization dedicated to evaluating all medical practices, and is chair of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine.

My Comments (Posted on February 23, 2003)

Questionnaires were distributed at three separate conferences of family physicians with 180 physicians responding. More than 70 to 90 percent of the physicians considered complementary medical therapies, such as diet and exercise, behavioral medicine, counseling and psychotherapy, and hypnotherapy, to be legitimate medical practices. A majority had referred patients to nonphysicians for these therapies or used some of them in their own practices. Homeopathy, Native American medicine, and traditional Oriental medicine were not favored as legitimate medical practice.

Overview of IOM "CAM" Committee

This article was revised on January 15, 2005.

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