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Scientific Approach Needed For Alternative Therapy

Scientific Approach Needed For Alternative Therapies

The Government's review of alternative therapies must take a scientific approach if it is to usefully find out which are safe and effective, the New Zealand Medical Association says.

The Government plans to review alternative therapies, including investigating benefits, risks and costs, and reviewing overseas evidence-based research.

"Public health funding is too precious to be squandered on unproven therapies," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay. "Alternative therapies must be subjected to the same rigorous scientific testing that conventional medicines face if they are to become integrated into the taxpayer-funded public health system.

"Too often, we hear wildly unproven claims about alternative therapies. Publicity about the green-lipped mussel extract Lyprinol, for example, led many people to believe it was a breakthrough in cancer treatment, when there was no evidence that it worked."

Dr MacKay said alternative health practitioners should also be required to meet high standards of training and education, and be subject to strict standards and disciplinary codes.

Some therapies, such as acupuncture, have been widely studied and are now being included in conventional treatment.

Last year the NZMA Board adopted a policy about alternative therapies, which stated that people should have access to all relevant information about alternative therapies, including scientific-based evidence about the expected benefits, side effects and risks.

The NZMA urges people with health problems first and foremost to consult a medical practitioner.

Ends

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