Healthcare Reform Includes Alternative Medicine, Dietary Supplements

September 20, 2010

The landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act signed into law by President Obama on March 23 includes several provisions that address complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and dietary supplements.

The landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act signed into law by President Obama on March 23 includes several provisions that address complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and dietary supplements.

With the goal of educating Americans about preventive care, the bill stipulates the creation of 'wellness plans' to be carried out through community health centers, typically in lower-income areas. In addition to providing wellness assessments and education, the programs will provide participants with a selection of dietary supplements that have FDA-approved health claims.

These supplements include folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3, and multivitamins. Supplements will be targeted at 'at-risk' groups, such as folic acid for pregnant women.

Provisions have also been included to ensure that insurance plans do not discriminate against CAM practitioners. These practitioners include acupuncturists, chiropractors, and naturopath doctors who prescribe may prescribe dietary supplements.
Industry members were pleased with the provisions. Some say that it may open the door to CAM and dietary supplements in mainstream medicine in the future.

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association (Washington, DC), told Nutritional Outlook that he was glad that the government...s focus on prevention and long-term healthcare cost savings included dietary supplements and nutrition in its approach. 'Prevention means a lot of different things to people. It could mean vaccination, but it also looks like it...s also going to mean nutrition, the way that the final bill is written,' he said.

'If managed properly, the greater inclusion of alternative practitioners in healthcare should open a pathway for increased acceptance of the dietary supplement products they provide,' said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (Silver Spring, MD).