The Ethics of Traditional Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine Research: Views of Researchers and Human Ethics Committees in Australia (by Caroline A. Smith, Ros Priest, Bridget Carmady, Suzannah Bourchier, and Alan Bensoussan, in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
Despite the growth of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and western herbal medicine (WHM) research in Australia, little is known about how ethics committees (HRECs) assess the ethics of TCM or WHM research. The objectives of this study were to examine the experiences of TCM and WHM researchers and HRECs with the evaluation of ethics applications. Two cross-sectional surveys were undertaken of HRECs and TCM and WHM researchers in Australia. Anonymous self-completion questionnaires were administered to 224 HRECs and 117 researchers. A response confirming involvement in TCM or WHM research applications was received from 20 HRECs and 42 researchers. The most frequent ethical issues identified by HRECs related to herbal products including information gaps relating to mode of action of herbal medicines and safety when combining herbal ingredients. Researchers concurred that they were frequently requested to provide additional information on multiple aspects including safety relating to the side effects of herbs and herb-drug interactions. Overall adherence with the principles of ethical conduct was high among TCM and WHM researchers although our study did identify the need for additional information regarding assessment of risk and risk management.