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European plans for complementary medicine criticised

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7059.710a (Published 21 September 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:710

The French medical association, L'Ordre des Medecins, has announced that it is “totally opposed” to European proposals to recognise, regulate, and harmonise nonconventional forms of health care in member countries. The Belgian deputy prime minister, Paul Lannoye, put forward the proposals, which are due to be debated by the European parliament next month.

In its September issue the Bulletin de l'Ordre des Medecins says that legislation on complementary medicine varies widely between different European countries (see BMJ, 20 July, p 132), as does the number of techniques identified. The association states that Mr Lannoye's estimate that between 20% and 50% of patients consult a practitioner of complementary medicine is vastly exaggerated. It also dismisses as nonsense his suggestion that such practitioners be given limited medical training in the light of the eight years of study and the continued education required of medical doctors.

Mr Lannoye's report says that new ways to evaluate complementary medicines and procedures need to be found. But the association said that it is not the methods of evaluation which need to be questioned: it is simply the lack of efficacy and reproducibility of techniques which produces negative results with many complementary treatments.

“At a time when the criteria required for the marketing of a drug and the acceptance of therapeutic techniques are becoming increasingly demanding, it would seem incongruous to accept unproved therapies without questioning their efficacy and possible untoward effects. In the interest of patients, unconventional therapies should be subjected to the same demands, and in particular to double blind tests.”

A major criticism voiced by the association is that there is confusion between member states about what constitutes complementary therapy. In France 50 techniques have been identified and in Germany 58, whereas the BMA lists 67 and the Swedish Medical Association more than 200.—ALEXANDER DOROZYNSKI, medical journalist, Paris

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