Under fire

Why should pharmacists support integrative doctors who may soon face tighter regulation? Matthew Bellgrove explains

The recent announcement by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) that complementary medicine may soon face tighter regulation, should be of concern not just to responsible practitioners in the complementary health field, but also to pharmacists throughout the country.

The discussion paper released by the MBA in February of this year specifically mentions integrative medicine as a group to be targeted under the new proposed guidelines. Regulated and respected professions such as chiropractic, osteopathy and compounded medicine also attract a special mention.

While the intent of the proposal – to weed out unethical and unscrupulous operators – is to be applauded, might the new restrictions also be throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water?

If taken too far, could we see integrative doctors reluctant to recommend vitamins and other supplements they know will make a difference to their patients for fear of attracting the ire of the MBA?

According to an NPS MedicineWise survey conducted in 2008, more than two-thirds of consumers report using complementary medicine. If that same survey was conducted today, over a decade later, it’s not hard to imagine that percentage being much higher.

Most pharmacists would agree that the demand for complementary medicine products and services has grown dramatically over the past 20 years. Much of this has been on the back of sound and proven science that not even the stuffiest of conservative academics could dispute. Omega 3-rich fish oil for arthritis is a good example. Melatonin and Vitamin D for sleep disorders is another.

And leading the charge has been integrative doctors who, equipped with a deep understanding of both conventional and complementary medicine, have a big-picture vantage point when it comes to holistic health.

It’s integrative doctors who are prescribing changes to diet and exercise before surgery; to start with a course of vitamins and supplements first before resorting to drugs with a range of crushing side effects. There are many conventional doctors who do this also, but it’s integrative doctors who are at the forefront of this more personalised style of medicine.

It’s integrative doctors who are sending their patients to local pharmacies, not questionable overseas websites or dodgy backyard suppliers, for quality complementary health products along with in-depth advice from a fully qualified pharmacist on their proper use.

Pharmacists must show their support for integrative doctors and the vital work they do, and they can do it in a very tangible way by submitting feedback to the MBA’s public consultation.

The consultation period for the proposed new guidelines was set to close on 12 April however, due to an overwhelming response the closing date has been extended to 30 June 2019. To submit your feedback and show your support for practitioners of integrative medicine visit the website: https://www.medicalboard.gov.au/News/Current-Consultations.aspx

Matthew Bellgrove is a compounding pharmacist and owner. He is managing director of National Custom Compounding (Pharmacy).

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