Nelsons is committed to playing our part in developing and strengthening the evidence base for the safety and efficacy of complementary medicines. An essential element of our approach is to ensure that the nature of the evidence, and the methods used to collect it, are appropriate to the therapeutic approach.

Natural medicines exist in many forms, which have been used by mankind since long before the invention of western medicine and synthesised pharmaceutical products. Complementary medicines used today have generally thrived and survived because they have an excellent record of safety and successful use.

There is substantial anecdotal evidence and confidence in long-term use of complementary medicines. Recent World Health Organisation figures reveal that more than 80% of the world's population use such medicines for their healthcare needs. In our own society, increasing numbers of people choose complementary medicines and therapies for use alongside conventional treatments to deliver positive outcomes.

Complementary medicine adopts a holistic approach to patient care, placing the individual at the heart of the treatment, rather than the symptoms.

Mainstream medicine seeks to develop and provide novel drugs that are effective and safe, and address symptoms and causes. Clinical trials, including the 'gold standard' double blind placebo controlled trial, have been developed to test how pharmaceuticals treat physical symptoms. They act as a measure of efficacy and safety - the evidence base that is required to achieve a license for a new product.

However recent definition of the human genome and the development of techniques that reveal a patient's specific DNA may lead to modern medicines being tailored to individual patients, not simply their symptoms - an approach that mimics complementary medicine's holistic philosophy. In this context, the double blind placebo controlled trial, held up as the 'holy grail' of evidence-based medicine may lose its hallowed status. Designed to test how pharmaceuticals treat physical symptoms not individuals, it cannot be the whole 'test' of complementary medicine. Audit trails that track outcomes of treatments and procedures and impact on quality of life for patients are now considered legitimate additions to dossiers of evidence, as are patient and professional testimonials.