In 1992, the National Institutes of Health established an Office of Alternative Medicine to facilitate the study of alternative medical treatments and to disseminate the information to the public. In 1998, the name was changed to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). This office was established partly because of the increased interest and use of these therapies in the United States. It has been estimated that approximately 40% of all individuals in the United States use some form of complementary/alternative therapy. In 1997, Americans spent more that $27 billion on these therapies. Among the various purposes of the NCCAM, one is to evaluate the safety and efficacy of widely used natural products, such as herbal remedies and nutritional and food supplements. Although the scientific study of CAM is relatively new, the Center is dedicated to developing programs and encouraging scientists to investigate CAM treatments that show promise. The NCCAM budget has steadily grown from $2 million in 1993 to more than $68.7 million in 2000. This funding increase reflects the public's interest and need for CAM information that is based on rigorous scientific research.
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