Earlier this year a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reported, “saw palmetto did not improve symptoms or objective measures of benign prostatic hyperplasia.” The results were interesting in light of the fact that the weight of the medical literature supports the value of saw palmetto for this condition.

For example, The Cochrane Collaboration concluded that the extract of the American saw palmetto, Serenoa reopens, “provides mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms and flow measures … similar … to [the prescription drug] finasteride (Propecia) and is associated with fewer adverse treatment events.”

Is this just another example of CAMophobia by NEJM, or does the sponsor of the study, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), bear some of responsibility?

Able PharmBoy thinks the latter.

  • NCCAM funded a study of an herbal whose active ingredient(s) is not known.
  • NCCAM was responsible to contract with a supplier, but limited the criteria to the lowest bidder.

According to PharmBoy, “if you jump into a clinical trial without knowing what you’re testing, how can you have any confidence that a positive or negative outcome is meaningful? Or reproducible?”

7/31/06 17:10 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.