European complementary medicine proposals watered down

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 07 June 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1641
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    Plans to use European Union legislation to determine the status of non-conventional medicine and to allow practitioners to offer their services on equal terms throughout all 15 member states have been greatly watered down by the European parliament.


    The use of acupuncture varies throughout the European Union SALLY AND RICHARD GREENHILL

    Belgian Green MEP Paul Lannoye had been pressing for wide ranging action to end the various anomalies such practitioners face in the union, but the parliament last week merely called for a series of studies into the current situation.

    By a narrow majority MEPs supported an EU funded investigation into “the safety, effectiveness, area of application, and the complementary or alternative nature of all non-conventional medicines” and to analyse the different national rules which now apply.

    On the basis of the investigation they urged governments to encourage the development of EU backed research programmes covering individual and holistic medicines as well as the preventive role and specific characteristics of non-conventional medicine.

    In addition, MEPs turned their attention to food supplements, pressing for specific legislation for products when it is unclear whether they should be classed as dietary or medicinal items. They also want to ensure that governments do not use national legislation to stop manufacturers of health products from being able to sell their goods throughout the union.

    While the various measures go a long way towards placing the status of non-conventional medicine on the EU's agenda, they go nowhere near as far as Mr Lannoye, who had tabled more ambitious proposals, would like.

    Pointing out that in some countries as much as half the population used non-conventional medicine such as homoeopathy and acupuncture, he argued that the differing rules now in force on the right to practise and on the reimbursement of costs incurred meant that citizens were being treated unevenly in the union. He had unsuccessfully called for national legislation on non-conventional medicine to be coordinated and for EU guarantees on the freedom of establishment and provision of services for non-conventional medical practitioners.

    The European public health commissioner, Padraig Flynn, told MEPs that, given the lack of consensus on the issue, the wide ranging study would be unlikely to come to any decisive conclusion.

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