Regulation of conventional and complementary medicine — it is all in the evidence

Simon J Spedding
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11646
Published online: 18 June 2012

To the Editor: Complementary medicines may lack evidence of safety and efficacy, but conventional medicine lacks evidence of efficacy in 30%–40% of cases,1 and the breast implant and hip replacement debates demonstrate safety concerns. The debates about conventional versus complementary medicine expose how out of touch the medical profession is with the views of government and the people about complementary medicine. The medical profession was once central to health care and an opinion leader. Now it forms a small proportion of all health professionals registered under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), while complementary therapists provide half of health consultations2 and the public spends almost three times as much on complementary medicine ($3.5 billion)3 as it spends on prescribed medicines directly ($1.3 billion).4 Our profession’s influence on health policy has been compared with “an ineffective chorus muttering on the edge of the stage about keeping things the way they were”.5

  • Nutritional Physiology Research Centre, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA.


Competing interests:

I receive sitting fees from the TGA as a member of the Advisory Committee on Complementary Medicines and from the Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP) as a member of the National Standards Committee. The TGA and the RACGP have had no control or influence in the decision to submit the final manuscript for publication.


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