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Is complementary therapy the medicine of the new millennium?


Integrated medicine

Regulation in complementary and alternative medicine

Can doctors respond to patients' increasing interest in complementary and alternative medicine?

To coincide with a conference in London next week, organised jointly by the UK's Royal College of Physicians and the US's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, several articles in this week's BMJ discuss how complementary and alternative therapies can be integrated into conventional patient care.

As US expenditure on complementary medicine approaches $40 billion a year and at least 40% of general practices in the UK provide some complementary medicine services, conventional medicine can no longer ignore complementary medicine, write Lesley Rees and Andrew Weil. They believe that funding for research and clear guidelines for the regulation and training of health professionals who want to incorporate a complementary therapy into their practice is essential to the effective integration of complementary medicine and conventional medicine.

Despite recommendations for clearer regulation in the UK, professional standards vary widely, reports Simon Mills of the Complementary Health Studies Programme in Exeter. He believes that each discipline should set up its own regulatory body, and that greater co-operation and respect between orthodox and complementary practitioners would improve communication with patients.

To advise about complementary and alternative medicine, doctors need to understand its potential benefits and limitations, write Owen and colleagues. Without this, complementary and alternative medicine will continue to be patchy and largely outside the conventional care framework, they add. They believe that the integration of complementary and alternative medicine gives doctors and the health profession an opportunity to bring together the strengths and to balance the weaknesses inherent in different systems of healthcare, and could be a healing process in itself.



(Editorial)Lesley Rees, Director of Education, Royal College of Physicians, London, UK Email:

(Editorial)Andrew Weil, Director, Program in Integrative Medicine and Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA Email:

(Paper "Regulation in complementary and alternative medicine")Simon Mills, Research Coordinator, Complementary Health Studies Programme, Exeter, UK Email:

(Paper "Can doctors respond to patients' increasing interest in complementary and alternative medicine?")D Owen, Homoeopathic Physician, Homoeopathic Physicians Teaching Group, Oxford, UK Email:

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