Will the move the tighten guidelines for complementary medicine make things safer or further muddy the waters?

A recent move by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to tighten guidelines for complementary medicine practitioners could cause more confusion and uncertainty for patients if taken too far, according to leaders in the compounding pharmacy sector.

Experienced pharmacist Matthew Bellgrove from National Custom Compounding said many in the compounding sector had been asking for clarity and greater definition in the guidelines for years, however it was important to ensure evidence-based medicine did not become the innocent victim of a well-intentioned clean-up of the industry.

“For example vitamins and nutritional supplements have been mentioned in the consultation paper, however it’s been well-established for many years that vitamins and diet management are crucial in the treatment of many common conditions. Diabetes, anemia, cardiovascular disease, obesity and rickets are just a few that come to mind.”

“Compounding pharmacists have also been mentioned – the same compounding pharmacists who are swamped with orders from hospitals and doctors desperate to get their patients the medication they need every time the manufacturer can’t keep up with demand,” Matthew continued, “This is something that’s happening far too often of late.”

“Greater detail in the definitions is what will be needed to ensure the public can continue to access quality, proven treatments while being protected from unsafe practices.”

The MBA’s public consultation paper is currently seeking feedback from industry on new guidelines for medical practitioners working in the fields of  ‘complementary and unconventional medicine’, including integrative doctors. The paper also aims to clear up some of the uncertainty around what the MBA terms ‘emerging treatments’.

According to the MBA the move to tighten guidelines was instigated after it received complaints about “…insufficient information being provided to patients, inappropriate tests being ordered, inappropriate prescribing and inappropriate treatments being provided to vulnerable consumers.”

Matthew said he, and other reputable compounding pharmacists welcomed the move to provide greater clarity on what the Board expected and to weed out unscrupulous and unethical operators.

“Greater definition would give the public far greater confidence in responsible complementary medicine practitioners and in particular integrative doctors,” Matthew said, “The integrative doctors we work with are highly professional, highly principled practitioners, and I know they welcome every opportunity to prevent the snake-oil peddlers from taking advantage of vulnerable patients.”

“There’s a place for both complementary and integrative medicine in our health care system. According to the MBA themselves over two-thirds or consumers use complementary medicine, which shows the demand, and acceptance, is there.”

“And there’s many compelling examples of complementary and conventional medicine practitioners working together and achieving exceptional results for the patient.”

“Tighter guidelines will make more of these kinds of collaborations possible and will give patients greater confidence, and choice, when seeking treatment, However it’s important that the new guidelines make things clearer, not muddy the waters even further.”

Submissions to the MBA’s ‘Consultation on complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments’ close on 12 April 2019.

For anyone unsure how to make a submission a new website is available to help – go to https://integrativemedicinefreedomofchoice.com/

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