Changing the conversation about health

November complementary medicine roundup 2016

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners treating patients with cancer will be relieved that The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has decided to retain ‘improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer’. A new NICE Guideline is expected in January 2018. As a result, holistic care including that provided by CAM treatments and therapies will continue to be available within the NHS in England & Wales, including at leading NHS hospitals. For example at The Royal Marsden, London

Information about the NICE Guideline may be viewed here and here.

Some have found it surprising that the NICE proposed amending its Guidelines to deprive this especially vulnerable patient group of proven and cost-effective CAM treatments. The proposal attracted considerable opposition from a significant number of registered stakeholders (Project information). Furthermore, its terms appear to conflict with the recommendations set out in the World Health Organisation Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014 to 2023: Strategy Document

I refer, in particular, to the following excerpts (bolding & italics added by me):

 At page 19:

‘…7) Integration of T&CM (Traditional and Complementary medicine) into health systems:

 As the uptake of T&CM increases, there is a need for its closer integration into health systems. Policy makers and consumers should consider how T&CM may improve patient experience and population health. Important questions of access as well as population and public health issues must be addressed. This new strategy document reviews progress made worldwide since the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002–2005, including highlights of successes and emerging challenges, and provides a framework for action into the next decade which will strengthen T&CM globally…’

At page 36:

‘…An increasing number of medical doctors are interested in T&CM in these European countries, a phenomenon which may increase the likelihood of reimbursement. For example, many French doctors are specialists in acupuncture and homeopathy, both of which are reimbursed by the Social Security when performed or prescribed by a doctor. Since 1997, the Socialist Mutual Insurance of Tournai-Ath in Belgium partially reimburses specific complementary/alternative treatments such as homeopathic remedies. In Finland, when provided by an allopathic physician, acupuncture and other complementary/alternative therapies can be covered by the Social Insurance Institution (SII). In Germany, public and private insurance provides the same kind of coverage for some complementary/alternative treatments (42)…’;

At page 38:

‘…In many other countries, T&CM is partially integrated into the national health system. Switzerland became the first country in Europe to integrate T&CM into its health system (Box 10)…’

The provision of Integrated Medicine and Healthcare makes a vital contribution. Its availability relies on the vigilance, commitment and professional skills of a diverse group of CAM practitioners. Even so, it continues to be challenged.

Homeopathy has, at times, seemed to be literally ‘under siege’ notwithstanding that it is practised to the satisfaction of patients by many NHS General Medical Practitioners as well as by Homeopaths registered with established and reputable professional organisations and regulators. Readers may recall media reports in November 2015 that the Government is planning a consultation into the NHS funding of and access to Homeopathy. To my knowledge, the consultation has not yet taken place. If it does, there is much information and evidence available that should be reviewed including the WHO Strategy (above) and, for example, the following organisations:

Alliance for Natural Health

Faculty of Homeopathy

PubMed and

Homeopathy Research Institute

Interestingly, in the summer of this year, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which regulates the veterinary profession, included the following in its statement issued in response to a petition requesting the ban of homeopathy for the treatment of animals.

“Furthermore, homeopathy is currently accepted by society and recognised by UK medicines legislation, and does not, in itself, cause harm to animals…”

“While this is the case, it is difficult to envisage any justification for banning a small number of veterinary surgeons from practising homeopathy.”

The Faculty of Homeopathy has issued the following statement. Here is more information about veterinary surgeons who practice homeopathy.

As with all professions, practitioners of CAM can expect to be subject to increasing scrutiny, particularly with regard to the evidence-base for their practice. There are numerous CAM research databases and information resources. To engage the interests of their patients, Practitioners could provide links to these in their websites and also refer to them in their promotional and marketing materials. The following, which were founded and are edited by those named, are based in the UK:

Positive Health Online (Dr Sandra Goodman PhD)

CAM Magazine (Simon Martin);

The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Library and Information Service (CAMLIS) located at The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (UCLH)

The Research Council for Complementary Medicine

The Alliance for Natural Health International (Dr Robert Verkerk PhD);

Complementary Therapies in Medicine Journal (published by Elsevier):