This is the second installment of our new column (see the February 2008 issue for the first article) designed to keep you up to date on the activities of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM).
If there is an issue important to you, please contact us. We are your national association and are here to help the profession grow and flourish. Here are some of the highlights of our recent activities:
NCCAM National Advisory Council
In February, the AAAOM wrote to Michael O. Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, regarding the composition of the National Advisory Council to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). As you may know, NCCAM is the federal government's lead agency for scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The advisory council reviews grant applications and makes recommendations to the NCCAM director on CAM researcher funding and training.
The letter from AAAOM President Martin Herbkersman to Secretary Leavitt stated that of the nine members of the council required to be licensed CAM practitioners, only one is a licensed acupuncturist (Dr. Ted Kaptchuk), and his term is expiring next year. Recognizing the critical role of the council in guiding CAM research priorities in the U.S., and the importance of having qualified advisors presiding over research that affects the quality of and access to acupuncture care, Herbkersman offered assistance from the AAAOM to help NCCAM comply with federal requirements regarding representation of CAM providers on the council and more specifically, adequate and appropriate representation for acupuncturists.
The letter to Secretary Leavitt also discussed the recent appointment to the council of Dr. Lupo Carlota, a physician who markets a five-day training program to other physicians. The AAAOM does not consider short-course-trained individuals to be qualified representatives of the profession. Dr. Carlota is not a licensed acupuncturist. Although he lists his credentials as "Dipl. Ac.," the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) has confirmed that he is not NCCAOM-certified. We have requested this appointment be reconsidered, since Dr. Carlota is not representative of CAM work in the acupuncture field. We also have requested that at least two licensed and nationally certified acupuncturists be appointed to the NCCAM Council. We currently are collecting résumés from which we will select qualified licensed acupuncturists to nominate to the council when the next opportunity occurs.
U.S. Pharmacopeia Workshop on TCM
The AAAOM was invited to attend a workshop organized by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) on traditional Chinese medicine. The USP is the official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and OTC medicines, dietary supplements and other health care products manufactured and sold in the U.S. Its standards are recognized and used in more than 130 countries to assure the quality of medicines and related products. The USP also conducts verification programs for participating manufacturers for dietary supplements, which involves independent testing and review to verify ingredient and product integrity, purity and potency.
This was the first time the USP had invited distinguished scientists and regulatory experts from China to meet with U.S. experts to provide overviews from each country on TCM regulatory, pharmacological, academic, clinical, and market perspectives. The Chinese delegation noted that TCM comprises 30 percent of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry and strongly emphasized their belief that these medicines make important contributions to the health of their citizens. The delegation also presented information on methods of species identification and standardization, quality control, rare species protection, and regulation within China.
In discussions regarding the new regulations on Good Manufacturing Products (GMPs), Dr. Vailios Frankos, PhD, director of the FDA's Division of Dietary Supplements, talked about how this new rule will affect practitioners. He said, "We are not going to be enforcing the GMPs for practitioners in one-on-one consultations. We are going to stay out of the individual practitioner relationship."
The FDA representatives expressed concerns regarding the quality, safety and identity of crude herbs and herbal products originating from China. During the meeting, the Chinese delegation agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) toward increasing safety of herbal exports to the U.S. It also was proposed that the USP create 200 TCM monographs to further ensure the identity of imported TCM products.
The AAAOM was an active participant in this historic meeting and expects to be involved in the selection process of the herbs chosen for the TCM monographs. We thank Bonnie Povolny, MS, LAc, and Michael McGuffin for attending this meeting.
New Public Board Members
In the February column, we reported on the annual election and selection of new AAAOM board officers. Since then, we have appointed Michael McGuffin as our new voting public member and Michael Taromina, JD, as our new alternate nonvoting public member.
Michael McGuffin is president of the American Herbal Products Association. He has been active in the herbal industry since 1975, having owned and managed both retail and manufacturing businesses in this field. He is the managing editor of the Botanical Safety Handbook (1997) and Herbs of Commerce, 2 nd Edition (2000). He also serves on the boards of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, United Plant Savers and the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance. We are thrilled to have Michael's expertise in the area of herbal medicine to assist the AAAOM on this important issue in our profession.
Michael Taromina, JD, has an extensive background representing and educating AOM practitioners, institutions, organizations and students. As the chair of NCCAOM's Professional Ethics & Disciplinary Committee, he co-drafted the Code of Ethics and Grounds for Discipline and oversees the adjudication of misconduct cases from all over the country. As legal counsel to the New York State Acupuncture Coalition, he has served an integral role in the drafting and lobbying effort to amend the New York acupuncture statute. He also is legal advisor to NCCAOM's Regulatory Affairs Task Force, TCM World Foundation, Acupuncture Society of New York, and the Chinese Medical Science Foundation. Michael's expertise on all legal and legislative matters already has been invaluable to the AAAOM's efforts to firmly establish AOM in the U.S. health care system.
Having public members on the board of directors provides the AAAOM with the opportunity to bring in nonacupuncturists who are supportive of the profession and who have certain skills to complement those of the other board members. We are grateful that the "two Michaels" are willing to lend their time and expertise to the profession. Please join us in welcoming them to the board!
Expo 2008 Chicago
It's not too early to start making plans for the AAAOM's 2008 annual conference, which will be held Oct. 17-19 at the Westin Chicago North Shore. We are especially pleased to announce that Josephine P. Briggs, MD, new director of the NCCAM, will be our keynote speaker. She says on the NCCAM Web site, "As a physician, I know first-hand how depersonalized the high-tech systems of modern health care can be, how the focus on the whole patient is often overlooked, and how patients are seeking practices that promote health and wellness. These are needs that are often being met better by CAM practitioners and the growing programs of integrative medicine. To me, these are very important aspects of health that need to be examined. As a scientist, physician and consumer, I believe in the importance of an open dialogue between patients and health care providers about all we do to take care of our health and our family's health."
Dr. Briggs is the first NCCAM director to speak at our conference. This will be a great opportunity to meet her, ask questions, and show her what an incredible group of people make up the AOM community. More information about the conference will be sent to you over the next few months, but mark your calendars now so you don't miss this exciting opportunity to talk to with one of the most influential persons in the field of acupuncture research.
I would like to note that it feels like a sea change is occurring within the AAAOM. We are coalescing as an organization in ways we could only hope for a year ago. Our growing esteem and recognition on the national level is evidenced by the increased media inquiries we are receiving, the invitations from other organizations to participate in their activities and advise them on AOM issues and, of course, the interest from the NCCAM in developing a relationship with the acupuncture community and participating in our conference. We are now recognized as the national association for professional acupuncturists, and our voice is getting stronger and stronger.
If you are not already a member, please join us to support your profession and those who benefit from these services. To join, please go to www.aaaomonline.org or call, toll free, (866) 455-7999.