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CMA reiterates stance on complementary medicine

Physicians should not recommend complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) interventions that are not supported by scientifically valid evidence.

That’s the position of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) as stated in its revised policy on CAM recently approved by the association’s board of directors.

The updated policy makes it clear that alternative medicine must be held to the same evidence-based standards as all other elements of the health care system.

The policy also states that while the CMA supports the development of CAM products and therapies, before any new treatment is adopted and applied by the medical profession it must first be rigorously tested and recognized as evidence-informed. The proposed intervention should have proven benefit before being represented to Canadians as effective health treatment.

“To date,” the policy states, “much of the public’s information on CAM has been anecdotal, or founded on exaggerated claims of benefit based on few or low-quality studies.” However, the CMA notes that well-designed studies of CAM are increasingly being done — and should be encouraged.

“Canadians have the right to reliable, accurate information on CAM products and therapies to help ensure that the treatment choices they make are informed,” the policy states. It calls on patients to appraise all health information critically.

The CMA recommends that governments, manufacturers, health care providers and other stakeholders work together to ensure that Canadians have access to this information. This includes providing labels listing all ingredients, as well as user-friendly and easy access to information such as:

  • instructions for use
  • indications that the product or therapy has been convincingly proven to treat
  • contraindications, side-effects and interactions with other medications
  • advice to the consumer to inform health care provider(s) that he or she is using this product

To help physicians provide the highest standard of treatment available while minimizing risk, patients should be encouraged to inform their physicians of the use of all health products.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.