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Alternative treatment alert

Alternative treatment alert

FROM: Dr Ross Boswell, NZMA Chairman

Many New Zealanders are using complementary and alternative treatments which are unproven and may cause harm when taken with prescription medicines, according to research in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal.

The study showed that about one third of people who presented at Waikato Hospital’s emergency department used complementary and alternative treatments, “which may be associated with adverse effects, toxicity, and interactions with conventional medicines, although the incidence of these appears to be low.”

“This study is cause for concern, as people may be doing themselves harm without knowing it,” says New Zealand Medical Association Chairman Dr Ross Boswell.

“The NZMA believes alternative treatments should be subject to the same evidence-based scientific testing that conventional medicines face.
“If this does not happen, those promoting alternative treatments should not make unproven claims about their efficacy.

“Unless people have all the relevant information about a product or treatment, they are not in a position to make an ‘informed choice’. Relevant information includes science-based evidence about the expected benefits, side effects and risks.

“Patients have the right to be protected from exploitation.
“The NZMA urges people with health problems to consult a medical practitioner. Medical practitioners are highly qualified, must be registered and must adhere to strict standards. They are bound by an ethical code and can face disciplinary action if they breach standards.”

This week’s NZMJ also features an Editorial by international expert Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, who expresses concern at the wide use of alternative treatments, and advocates that doctors learn more about these treatments so they can advise their patients.


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