Review of Information Resources for Complementary Medicines

Background


This study is part of the NPS complementary medicine research program. For more information about the background and other components of this program click here.

 Health professionals and consumers use want to know more about CMs. There are a limited number of CM information sources easily accessible and some are of variable quality. Some resources are sponsored by the CM industry while others are independents and provide evidence-based information.

Aim

NPS commissioned a review of CMs information resources. It aimed to examine CMs information resources and identify high quality resources for use by Australian health professionals and consumers.

Design / methods

The review was conducted by a consortium of researchers from the Mater Hospital Pharmacy Services in Brisbane, the University of Queensland and Bond University.

A list of CMs information resources were tested against broad criteria encompassing currency, coverage, transparency and content quality to produce a short-list of resources.These short-listed resources were evaluated across three domains: technical quality, content quality and clinical utility.

Resources were then ranked according to whether their total scores and the scores for each of the three domains were above the upper 95% confidence interval for the mean scores for all the individual resources.

Summary of results and recommended resources

  • 52 CM information resources from reputable sources were short-listed to 26 resources from 19 information providers.
  • 6 resources were identified as the highest quality (Tier 1), based on their total score, and scores for all three domains (technical quality, content quality and clinical utility) being above the upper 95% confidence interval of the mean of all short-listed resources. These resources were (in rank order):
    1. Natural Standard Professional Database package
    2. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (Health Professional Edition) 
    3. Natural Standard Professional Database - Professional monographs
    4. Herbal Medicines & Dietary Supplements package
    5. Natural Standard Professional Database - Bottom line monographs
    6. MedlinePlus: Drugs, Supplements & Herbal Information
  • Three resources were identified as high quality (Tier 2) based on their total score, and two of the scores for the three domains being above the upper 95% confidence interval of the mean of all short-listed resources. They were:
    1. Barnes et al. Herbal Medicines. 3rd ed. 2007.
    2. Natural and Alternative Treatments: EBSCO.
    3. Braun and Cohen. Herbs and natural supplements. An evidence-based guide 2nd ed. 2007.

Publications

Download the summary report here

Results presented at conferences:

  • McGuire T, Walters J, Van Driel M, Del Mar C, Pache D, Williamson M. Evaluating Complementary Medicines resources: identifying the cream of the crop. Primary Health Care Research Conference June 30-July 2 2010, Darwin, Australia (Poster)

Recommendations

  • That organisations responsible for providing information to consumers and health professionals about CMs such as drug information services have access to one or both Natural Standard Professional Database or the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (Health Professional Edition)
  • That health professional and consumer organisations actively refer health professionals and consumers to the CMs resources, ranked as Tier 1 or Tier 2, as the preferred options for assisting with decisions around the use of CMs.
  • That one or more of the Tier 1 or Tier 2 resources should be available to health professionals and consumers in various formats to support decisions about the quality use of CMs.
  • To assist in selecting the most appropriate resource for health professionals and consumers, further assessment of the usability and ‘real life’ utility for both health professionals and consumers is needed

Related information and links:

  • NPS information about complementary medicines (Link)
  • About the NPS complementary medicine research program (Link)
  • About NPS complementary medicine research with consumers (Link)
  • About NPS complementary medicine research with health professionals (link)