The basis in NAFKAM's routines for quality assurance is the use of reputable, international research databases, and that we base our information about effect and efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) on systematic reviews (SRs). The assessments we make of the research is quality assured by senior researchers at NAFKAM.
Our sources for evidence about CAM therapies' effect are:
Based on SRs found in these databases, we refer for the unprofessional reader what the research says. This is published in our website's Net Lexicon as fact sheets (Norwegian: faktaark) about CAM therapies, dietary approaches, herbs and supplements. As the assignment from Norwegian health authorities is to provide the Norwegian population with research-based fact information about CAM, these fact sheets are available only in Norwegian.
Even with research on the level of systematic reviews, certainty is sometimes difficult to acquire. The research often has limitations, which make the researchers have reservations about the results. Also, researchers often write in a complicated manner, and in their professional "tongue". This can make it hard for the public to understand what the research results actually mean and do not mean. Some phrases that are commonly used are:
- Likely effective (Har trolig effekt): The researchers behind the SR conclude that the studies investigated show that the treatment has an effect on the health problem in question, and that these studies are so well-designed and executed that these findings most probably are correct.
- Possibly effective (Har muligens effekt): The researchers conclude that the studies indicate an effect, but that more and better studies are needed before these promising but preliminary results can be confirmed.
- Possibly ineffective (Har muligens ikke effekt): The researchers conclude that the studies indicate that the treatment is not effective, but that more and better studies are needed to confirm this.
- Likely ineffective (Har trolig ikke effekt): The researchers conclude that the studies do not show any effect, and that these studies are so well-designed and executed that the findings most probably are correct.
- Insufficient evidence: When the findings from the studies differ so much, and/ or the methodological quality in them is so low that evidence from them is so unreliable for researchers can not use them to state whether the treatment is effective or not.
For information about safety of CAM therapies, we use information also from lower level evidence, found mainly via sources such as PubMed, Natural Medicines, LactMed and RELIS. We also refer information relevant for the provision / use of the CAM therapy in question from Norwegian and other official websites, and refer any considerations, warnings, prohibitions and the like from health authorities.
*) Systematic reviews (SRs) are generally considered as documentation of high quality. The British Oxford Center for Evidence-Based Medicine (OCEM) ranks SRs as the most reliable for giving advice on the use and practice of a health treatment. If no SRs are found within our sources, we do not have sufficient documentation to say whether the treatment is effective or not (even if, for example, CAM Cancer refers studies and research from lower levels of evidence).
We do not include SRs that are only based on one study. We also omit summaries where a full English version of the SR is not available to us.