When docs provide CMs

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Complaints and concerns about doctors who provide complementary medicines has sparked a consultation by the Medical Board

The Board is consulting on options to more clearly regulate medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments.

It created a set of proposed draft guidelines after an analysis of complaints and wider concerns raised with regulators, which identified a need for additional safeguards to protect patients who seek such medicines and treatments.

Concerns include patients being offered and/or having treatments for which the safety and efficacy are not known; which may be unnecessary; which expose them to serious side effects; and that may result in delayed access to more effective treatment options.

The proposed draft guidelines provide a framework for doctors practising in this area, but do not rule in or out specific complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments.

They are designed to be used alongside the existing code of conduct for doctors in Australia.

“The draft guidelines aim to prevent harm that may occur directly from the complementary and unconventional medicine or emerging treatments or indirectly, from delays in accessing other treatments,” the Medical Board says.

“While some treatments may be beneficial, others may have no effect, the benefit may be uncertain, or the effect may be harmful physically, psychologically or financially.

“The draft guidelines also address risk to patients from increasingly blurred lines between research and commercial innovation, and conflicts of interest that can emerge when a practitioner has a financial or commercial interest in the product or service being offered.”

The Board says it recognises that both medical practitioners and consumers hold “diverse and passionate” views about CMs and their provision via doctors.

“We are consulting on options to best protect patients and minimise the risk of harm to them, without stifling innovation, making a judgement about specific clinical practices or limiting patients’ right to choose their healthcare,” it says.

It adds that to date there is not a widely agreed-upon definition of complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatments and that the Board is consulting on a proposed definition that includes:

“…any assessment, diagnostic technique or procedure, diagnosis, practice, medicine, therapy or treatment that is not usually considered to be part of conventional medicine, whether used in addition to, or instead of, conventional medicine. This includes unconventional use of approved medical devices and therapies”.

The consultation paper, discussion paper and draft guidelines are published on the Medical Board’s current consultations page.

The consultation is open until 12 April 2019.

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