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The Challenge of ‘Evidence’: Research and the Regulation of Traditional and Non-Conventional Medicines

Urquiza-Haas, Nayeli and Cloatre, Emilie (2021) The Challenge of ‘Evidence’: Research and the Regulation of Traditional and Non-Conventional Medicines. In: Laurie, Graeme and Dove, Edward and Ganguli-Mitra, Agomoni and McMillan, Catriona and Postan, Emily and Sethi, Nayha and Sorbie, Annie, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Health Research Regulation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 296-305. E-ISBN 978-1-108-62002-4. (doi:10.1017/9781108620024.037) (KAR id:88685)


Governments and stakeholders have struggled to find a common ground on how to regulate research for different (‘proven’ or ‘unproven’) practices. Research on traditional, alternative and complementary medicines is often characterised as following weak research protocols and as producing evidence too poor to stand the test of systematic reviews, thus rendering individual case studies results insignificant. Although millions of people rely on traditional and alternative medicine for their primary care needs, the regulation of research into, and practice of, these therapies is governed by biomedical parameters. This chapter asks how, despite efforts to accommodate other forms of evidence, regulation of research concerning traditional and alternative medicines is ambiguous as to what sort of evidence – and therefore what sort of research – can be used by regulators when deciding how to deal with practices that are not based on biomedical epistemologies. Building on ideas from science and technology studies (STS), in this chapter we analyse different approaches to the regulation of traditional and non-conventional medicines adopted by national, regional and global governmental bodies and authorities, and we identify challenges to the inclusion of other modes of ‘evidence’ based on traditional and hybrid epistemologies.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/9781108620024.037
Uncontrolled keywords: non-conventional medicines; research guidelines; evidence-based medicine; science and technology studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KD England and Wales
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Funders: Wellcome Trust (
Depositing User: Nayeli Urquiza
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2021 12:51 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:41 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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