Articles on Chiropractic
Research Grants and Grant
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at National Institute of Medicine
Anthony L. Rosner,
Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research
Anthony Rosner, Ph.D., Director of Research and
Education for the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research,
presented testimony on behalf of chiropractic research and practice
standards at hearings conducted at the Institute of Medicine (IOM)
headquarters in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2003. The occasion
marked the first of six meetings of a study committee planned by the IOM
over the next 18 months to explore the scientific and policy implications
of the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies by
the American public.
The objectives of the study committee are as follows:
To describe the use of CAM therapies by the
American public, including the populations that use them and what is
known about how they are provided;
To identify major scientific and policy
issues related to CAM research (including gender effects), regulation,
interactions with conventional medicine, and training and certification;
To develop conceptual frameworks for
guiding decision-making on these issues and questions.
The Institute of Medicine is a private,
non-governmental organization that initiates studies in areas of medical
care out of appropriations made available to federal agencies. It is a
branch of the National Academy of Sciences, which was created by the
federal government to be an advisor on scientific and technological
Following is Dr. Rosner’s presentation to the
Institute of Medicine.
For The Institute Of Medicine: The Use of CAM by the American Public
My dear colleagues:
I want to thank the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for two
reasons; first, for inviting my testimony this afternoon, but especially
for carrying what I believe is the unfulfilled work of both the National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the White House
Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine an essential step
forward by calling us to the table today.
I also want to offer my
strongest assent and congratulations to the Institute for its most
pertinent and insightful assessment of American healthcare — first, in its
forthright reporting of medical errors in 1999;  second, in
providing one of the most equitable definitions among the many offered for
"primary care; " and finally, for having published two years
ago the most candid and uncompromising assessments of U.S. healthcare,
Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st
This last publication courageously concluded that
"the American healthcare system is in need of a fundamental change,"
especially because "what is perhaps most disturbing is the absence of real
progress toward restructuring health care systems to address both quality
and cost concerns. . . ." 
We now know that superficial makeovers will not suffice.
The IOM indicated that entirely new patterns of thinking will be necessary
to escape this dilemma. "Our present efforts," suggested Mark Chassin,
"resemble a team of engineers trying to break the sound barrier by
tinkering with a Model T Ford. We need a new vehicle, or perhaps many new
vehicles. The only unacceptable alternative is not to
With these facts in mind, I come to you as the Director
of Research of a nonprofit foundation that in its 60-year history has
provided over $10M for pilot projects and support for postgraduate study
in areas pertaining to the theory and practice of chiropractic healthcare.
I am both joyful and dismayed.
Joyful, because in terms of achieving chiropractic research goals from a scientific standpoint, I can only
share with you the greatest satisfaction if not outright wonder. Until
about 30 years ago, chiropractic research was considered in some quarters
to be something of an oxymoron, "falsely conceived and rather clumsily
executed...[with a text]...that should never have been accepted, on a
subject that should never have been chosen, by [those] who never have
attempted it." A depiction of chiropractic researchers? No, a description
of George Gershwin's now immortal opera, Porgy and Bess, by the
music critic Virgil Thompson.
Despite the fact that chiropractic has existed as a
formal profession worldwide for over a century, most of what we consider
to be rigorous, systematic research in support of this form of healthcare
has emerged in just the past two-and-a-half decades. In 1975, Murray
Goldstein of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke
concluded that there was insufficient research to either support or refute
chiropractic intervention for back pain and other musculoskeletal
disorders.  Nearly 30 years later, we now can review with great
satisfaction how back pain management has been assessed by government
agencies in the U.S.,  Canada,  Great
Britain,  Sweden,  Denmark, 
Australia,  and New Zealand.  All of these reports
are highly positive with respect to spinal manipulation. Now we could
argue that chiropractic care, at least for back pain, appears to have
vaulted from last place to first as a treatment option.
In just the last 20 years, at least 73 randomized
clinical trials involving spinal manipulation have made their appearance
in the English-language literature. Even more amazing is the fact that the
majority of these have been published in general medical and orthopedic
journals. These trials address not only back pain, but also
headache and neck pain, the extremities, and a surprising variety of
nonmusculoskeletal conditions. When spinal manipulation is employed, the
majority of these trials have shown positive outcomes with the remainder
yielding equivocal results.
There are 43 trials addressing acute,
subacute, and chronic low back pain with 30 showing us that manipulation
is more effective than control or comparison treatments and the remaining
13 reporting no significant differences between treatment groups. None of
these studies appears to have produced a negative outcome and none
indicate that manipulation is any less effective than any
comparison intervention. [13, 14]
Other major accomplishments
The appearance of a variety of favorable
systematic literature reviews; [15-17]
The establishment of the first federally
funded chiropractic Center for Excellence at Palmer University by NIH's
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in
The publication of the Headache Report
by Duke University last year; 
The securing of over $10M in federal
grants within the past decade when in 1991 this accomplishment was
considered to be unlikely; 
The establishment of chiropractic
services within the military; and
The historic signing of Public Law
107-135 on January 23 of this year mandating the establishment of a
permanent chiropractic health benefit within the Department of Veterans
Affairs health care system.
Even more remarkable is the efficiency of chiropractic
research. When compared to the NIH budget of nearly $20B, the $10M
investment in federal funds is substantially less than a tenth of 1
percent, which makes it less than a rounding error or, as a couple of wags
have offered in the past — obviously, the federal government must believe in
alternative medicine because it has given chiropractic researchers
homeopathic doses of money with which to work.
If you were to sum up my feelings about how far
chiropractic research seems to have come, I'd have to resort to a pithy
quotation from a baseball hero that many of us grew up with: Yogi Berra.
When asked as manager of the New York Yankees whether one his star players
exceeded his expectations during a banner season, Yogi's remark was, "I'd
say he's done better than that!"
So then why am I dismayed? Let me share with you just
one example out of many which typify our problem. A recent report on
workers' compensation claimants from Florida is particularly galling. It
pointed out that for industrial musculoskeletal injuries, chiropractic
care demonstrates lower costs and shorter durations in both reaching
maximal medical improvement and return to work. Incredibly, over the same
7-year period, the frequency of specific musculoskeletal related cases
treated by chiropractors in 1999 was only 25% of the level seen in
1994 (the date that managed care was introduced into the Florida
workers' compensation system). 
In other words, just when
access of workers to chiropractic care should be increased to
result in significant direct and indirect cost savings (as previously
shown by Manga ) we are witnessing precisely the opposite.
Chiropractic care seems to be getting squeezed out of the system. Look at
the neighboring state of Georgia, in which chiropractic workers'
compensation cost recoveries were just 0.8% of the benefits
disbursed to physicians in 1997 and 1998. [22,23] Again one
suspects the exclusion of chiropractic services.
Is this paranoia? Not when you consider that, despite
the wealth of its research information with such little funding, it has
been necessary time and time again for the chiropractic profession to seek
both legislative and legal recourse to achieve its earned recognition with
the most meticulous of research, ironic in light of a recent report which
shows that chiropractic practices in at least one locale can demonstrate
that a higher percentage of its treatments are evidence-based than found
in medical interventions. 
Yet we still endure the opinions of
past editors of such trusted sources as The New England Journal of
Medicine who have debunked alternative medicine as "unscientific,"
often basing their own theories upon the same type of anecdotal evidence
that they condemn in various branches of non-orthodox
medicine. [25,26] Add medical journal articles on cerebrovascular
accidents of questionable scientific validity [27-32] plus an
onslaught of negative press regarding the safety of
manipulation [33-38] that could only be described as a petri dish
of fetid disinformation of the first magnitude. This is downright
embarrassing, almost vaudeville, when you consider that medical
practitioners have been shown to have failed validated competency
examinations in musculoskeletal medicine. [39-41] Instead of
abiding by this nonsense, we need to level the playing field instead of
In an ideal world, scientific debate would be carried on
at a high level and documented evidence would be enthusiastically accepted
and incorporated into guidelines and practice. In the real world,
unfortunately, there have been too many examples of resistance such that
chiropractic healthcare would probably not even have existed had such
lawsuits as the Wilk case against the AMA for restraint of trade not been
brought to bear. 
Now the profession faces discrimination in reimbursement
practices in the insurance industry requiring two more ongoing lawsuits
headed by the American Chiropractic Association against both Trigon Blue
Cross Blue Shield and the Health Care Financing Administration's Medicare
Part C regulations. 
How has the insurance industry and the AMA responded to
attempting to control the costs of healthcare? By advocating such
legislation as the Help Efficient Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare
Act of 2003 designed to cap pain and suffering awards to patients suing
for malpractice.  In light of the IOM's own data on
iatrogenesis and medical errors [2,3] as well as more recent
reports that tells us that efforts to improve upon these errors have not
been forthcoming and that their mandatory reporting has actually been
resisted by doctors and hospitals,  this seems to be an
exceptionally cynical and ill-conceived response to the needs of the
American public. So is its ignoring the real culprit of runaway costs:
runway prescription drug spending.  Realizing already
documented [21,47] cost savings by allowing patients access to
alternative means of healthcare, including chiropractic, seems far more
efficient as well as effective.
Chiropractic interventions which manifest tangible
results, a commitment to research and documentation of the highest
recognized quality, [15-17] high patient satisfaction, and
cost-effectiveness should not have to continually resort to legislation
and costly legal action to continue to survive. In this presentation I
request that the IOM display a commitment to working with us in order to
halt the spread of both discriminatory policies which impede access to
healthcare and the propagation of disinformation in the media that can
only be described as an epidemic of alarming proportions.
By commitment I
am specifically referring to adequate as well as qualified chiropractic
representation in matters of healthcare policy and decision-making as we
attempt to address the leading problems in America's healthcare. All too
often this effective seat at the table has been denied as part of the
discriminatory pattern I referred to earlier. Skyrocketing health
insurance premiums and the known shortages of healthcare professionals can
both be addressed with better access to chiropractic
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