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The Challenge of ‘Evidence’: Research and Regulation of Traditional and Non-Conventional Medicines

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Publication date24/06/2021
Host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Health Research Regulation
EditorsGraeme Laurie, Edward Dove, Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, Catriona McMillan, Emily Postan, Nayha Sethi, Annie Sorbie
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (print)9781108620024, 9781108475976
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Governments and stakeholders have struggled to find a common ground on how to regulate research for different (‘proven’ or ‘unproven’) practices. Research on traditional, alternative and complementary medicines is often characterised as following weak research protocols and as producing evidence too poor to stand the test of systematic reviews, thus rendering individual case studies results insignificant. Although millions of people rely on traditional and alternative medicine for their primary care needs, the regulation of research into, and practice of, these therapies is governed by biomedical parameters. This chapter asks how, despite efforts to accommodate other forms of evidence, regulation of research concerning traditional and alternative medicines is ambiguous as to what sort of evidence – and therefore what sort of research – can be used by regulators when deciding how to deal with practices that are not based on biomedical epistemologies. Building on ideas from science and technology studies (STS), in this chapter we analyse different approaches to the regulation of traditional and non-conventional medicines adopted by national, regional and global governmental bodies and authorities, and we identify challenges to the inclusion of other modes of ‘evidence’ based on traditional and hybrid epistemologies.