Medical site offers unconventional info

The National Library of Medicine launched a new service Monday to help health professionals and the public search for information online about unconventional medicine treatments, such as acupuncture, herbal remedies and aromatherapy.

NLM and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine — both part of the National Institutes of Health — created a new service that simplifies searching a database containing 11 million medical citations.

It's known as CAM on PubMed — for complementary and alternative medicine on PubMed, the library's database of medical information.

Information about alternative therapies already was available in the library system, but it often required multiple searches to pinpoint the medical journal or publication with information about treatments.

The new service cuts down the time it takes to find information and the frustration over navigating a cumbersome site. It provides quicker access to more than 220,000 records of journal articles about alternative medicines and therapies.

The new service will give library users a shortcut to the information, said Donald Lindberg, director of NLM.

"This joint venture will offer health professionals...researchers, educators and consumers ready access to a comprehensive database of journal citations directly related to complementary and alternative medicine," Lindberg said.

Sheldon Kotzin, chief of NLM's bibliography services, said the library's services get 1 million searches a day, and that number will grow as access to information becomes easier.

"There is a lot of information on complementary and alternative treatments. The idea was to bring it together," he said.

Nevertheless, the library, the largest resource for biomedical literature in the world, said it provides information about alternative treatments, but it does not endorse them. NLM decided to launch the service because Americans spend more than $21 billion each year on therapies that are not conventional treatments, and they are always looking for more information.

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