Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review Recent advances

Complementary medicine

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 16 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:683

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Andrew Vickers, assistant attending research methodologist (
  1. Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA

    Given that many complementary medicine techniques are defined in terms of a static historical tradition, discussing recent advances in complementary medicine is almost a contradiction in terms. None the less, few acquainted with complementary medicine would deny that substantive shifts in its scientific base and organisational structure have occurred recently. These shifts might indicate that complementary medicine is becoming more integrated. Integration, as used here, means that similar clinical, scientific, and regulatory standards are being applied across all forms of health care. If a list was written of what patients care about (for example, the clinical relationship), what researchers feel is important (for example, control of bias), what clinicians hold critical (for example, clinical competence), or what matters to purchasers (for example, cost effectiveness) there would probably be no reference to the historically and politically contingent concepts of “conventional” and “complementary” medicine. Integration has obvious implications for the access to and availability of care. It also implies that clinicians agree on their respective roles so that patients feel that they are receiving care as part of a coordinated service. In this article I review a number of signs that complementary medicine is becoming increasingly integrated.

    Recent advances

    The quantity of applied research in complementary medicine is growing rapidly and the quality is improving

    There is good evidence supporting the use of some complementary medicine treatments

    Guidelines and consensus statements issued by conventional medical organisations have recommended some complementary medicine treatments

    Complementary medicine is increasingly practised in conventional medical settings, particularly acupuncture for pain, and massage, music therapy, and relaxation techniques for mild anxiety and depression

    Osteopaths and chiropractors recently became the first complementary medicine practitioners in the United Kingdom to be regulated

    There is a more open attitude to complementary medicine among conventional health professionals; this is partly explained by the rise …

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