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Ann Clin Biochem. 2019 Feb 27:4563218824622. doi: 10.1177/0004563218824622. [Epub ahead of print]

Laboratory tests commonly used in complementary and alternative medicine: A review of the evidence.

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1 Department of Clinical Biochemistry, King George's Hospital, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, London, UK.
2 Retired Chemical Pathologist, Brisbane, Australia.
3 Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK.


It is increasingly easy for the general public to access a wide range of laboratory tests. Tests can be ordered online with little or no input from a health professional. The complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) community promote and sell a wide range of tests, many of which are of dubious clinical significance. Many have little or no clinical utility and have been widely discredited, whilst others are established tests that are used for unvalidated purposes. They range from the highly complex, employing state of the art technology, e.g. heavy metal analysis using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, to the rudimentary, e.g. live blood cell analysis. Results of 'CAM tests' are often accompanied by extensive clinical interpretations which may recommend, or be used to justify, unnecessary or harmful treatments. There are now a small number of laboratories across the globe that specialize in CAM testing. Some CAM laboratories operate completely outside of any accreditation programme whilst others are fully accredited to the standard of established clinical laboratories. In this review, we explore CAM testing in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia with a focus on the common tests on offer, how they are reported, the evidence base for their clinical application and the regulations governing their use. We will also review proposed changed to in-vitro diagnostic device regulations and how these might impact on CAM testing.


Complementary and alternative medicine; in-vitro diagnostic; laboratory developed in-house test; regulation; validation


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