Issues Magazine

Articles about complementary medicine

Complementary Medicine –When ARTG and CAM Spell SFA

Issues 84: Complementary Medicine

Issues 84: Complementary Medicine

By Rachel Dunlop

Recent moves to improve the regulation of alternative medicines looked promising until the Therapeutic Goods Administration caved under pressure from the industry.

Recently the Australian government announced plans to remove $30 million in private health insurance subsidies for complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs). On the chopping block were homeopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, iridology, kinesiology and naturopathy.

Assessing Complementary and Alternative Treatments

By BrainLink

How do you distinguish and assess conventional, complementary and alternative treatments and their practitioners? BrainLink offers a range of issues to consider and questions to ask.

There are many practitioners offering therapies and treatments outside mainstream medicine, and Australians are turning more and more to these approaches.

You are likely to receive lots of advice and information about treatments and remedies from many sources – doctors, friends, family, pamphlets, workmates, magazines, newspapers, books, shops, the radio and the Internet. Some of it will be sound and useful. Some may be confusing or misleading. We offer the following information as a guideline to help sort through your options and make the best choices.

© 2006 BrainLink in association with MSSV, MNDAV, MDA, Parkinson’s Victoria and AHDA (Vic). Adapted with permission from “Assessing Complementary & Alternative Treatments” fact sheet 5 .

A Critical Look at Pharmacies that Promote Complementary and Alternative Medicines

By Stuart Adams

Pharmacies have a vested interest in selling complementary medicine products that have little or no evidence of efficacy.

Pharmacists have long been regarded as reliable health care providers, and as fast and free alternatives to a GP. According to research published by Alistair Maclennan and colleagues in the Medical Journal of Australia (2006), Australians spend more than double their prescriptive medicine expenditure on complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). Many pharmacies are taking advantage of this trend by doubling as health food stores.

Complementary Medicine and Depression

By beyondblue: the national depression initiative

Many Australians use alternative treatments for depression, but do they work?

An estimated one million people in Australia live with depression. Despite this statistic, research into treatments for depression other than psychotherapy and medication is largely inconclusive. Certain alternative treatments – like St John’s wort, acupuncture and yoga – are used by many but more studies need to be done on their effectiveness or otherwise.

Complementary Medicine: Handle with Care

By Ken Harvey

Some forms of complementary medicine are efficacious but many have unproven or no health benefits. Claims that cannot be substantiated by scientific research are common, and all have some degree of risk.

Complementary Medicines: Integral to the Australian Health System

By Trixi Madon and Kristy Roberts

Complementary health care is an important part of Australian preventative health care.

Preventative health care is well-recognised as the key to an efficient health system within Australia. Many diseases and conditions can be prevented, yet existing healthcare systems do not always make best use of resources that could support this process. Complementary medicines play an important role in maintaining wellness and preventing illnesses, which impacts on productivity, reduces avoidable hospitalisations and readmissions into hospital, and could significantly reduce overall healthcare costs in Australia.

Complementary Medicine in Australia

“Rational Investigation” and Chiropractic

By Dennis Richards

The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia rejects the SA Skeptics’ view of chiropractic.

Chiropractic has more than a 100-year record of helping people around the world with health problems. It is recognised by government legislation in numerous countries, including all Australian states and territories, and its practitioners are educated in three government universities in Australia. It is interesting that the Skeptics Association of South Australia (Skeptics SA), which claims to investigate pseudoscience and the paranormal from a responsible scientific viewpoint, has criticised such a profession.

History of Chiropractic

An Evidence Base for Complementary Medicine

By Warwick P. Anderson

The National Health and Medical Research Council has set aside $5.3 million to fund research into the use of complementary medicines in Australia.

Readers of The Journal of Complementary Medicine will be familiar with the survey data that describes the patterns and trends in the use of complementary medicine (CM) in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s latest biennial health survey, Australia’s Health 2006, reports that:

  • one in two Australians regularly use CM and are spending more on CMs than prescription drugs;
  • many Australians use a range of CMs in addition to prescribed pharmaceuticals and other conventional medications; and

Adapted from The Journal of Complementary Medicine 2007, 6(3), 7 . Republished with permission from the Australian Pharmaceutical Publishing Co Ltd.


By Peter Bowditch

Do complementary and alternative medicines like homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture work?

Regulation of Naturopaths

By Jon Wardle

Many naturopaths support further regulation, but other industry elements disagree. Jon Wardle discusses this dichotomy and the benefits of regulation.

Complementary Medicine Research in the Spotlight

By Dimity Pinto

There needs to be a better balance between Australia’s high usage rates of complementary medicines and the evidence to support its use.

Complementary medicines are very popular in Australia, with up to two-thirds of Australians using some form of complementary medicine products or therapies each year. This is one of the highest usage rates among developed nations. However, Australia has one of the lowest levels of investment in related research.

Integrating Acupuncture with the Australian Healthcare System

By Charlie Xue, Tony Zhang, Angela Yang, Zhen Zheng and Brian May

Acupuncture is gaining significant acceptance in Australia, but further research and review will aid its integration with the broader healthcare system.

Acupuncture is not new in Australia. Since at least the 1840s it has been one of the methods used by practitioners of Chinese medicine for treating a range of disorders, and was used by some medical practitioners during the 19th century for pain management.

Interest in acupuncture escalated in post-war Europe with the establishment of an acupuncture society in France in 1945 and England in the 1960s.

In the 1970s acupuncture received considerable attention in the Australian press, and this was associated with the development of training courses and associations.

Regulation of Complementary Medicines in Australia

By David Briggs

David Briggs explains the role of the Therapeutic Goods Administration in regulating complementary medicines in Australia.

Complementary medicines include vitamin, mineral and nutritional supplements, and herbal and homoeopathic medicines. Complementary medicines are generally available for use in self-medication by consumers and can be obtained from retail outlets such as pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores. Unlike many other countries, where complementary medicines are regulated as foods, Australia regulates these products as medicines.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the News

By Billie Bonevski

Australian news reporting of complementary and alternative medicine is often poor, but a study identifying the problem could also provide the solution.

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is rising substantially throughout the world, and the CAM industry is now worth billions of dollars in Australia. Despite this growth, very little is known about how the media reports CAM. One small study examining the type and tone of media reporting of CAM in the UK and Germany suggested some variability in the reporting of CAM. As attempts continue to generate knowledge on the efficacy and safety of CAM, the media has a crucial role in communicating that information to the public.

The Media Doctor website ( was launched in 2004 with the aim of objectively analysing the strengths and weaknesses of health stories published in the mainstream Australian media.

Media Doctor reviews health news stories from newspapers, radio and television (commercial and ABC). Stories about new medical interventions, drugs, surgical procedures and diagnostic tests are eligible for review, as are articles about complementary therapies.

Media Doctor has reviewed more than 1230 news stories, and sibling sites have been launched in Canada ( and in the USA ( Sites will soon be launched in Hong Kong and Brazil, and researchers in other countries have expressed interest.

Media Doctor uses a range of reviewers from health and journalistic backgrounds to review the articles on a voluntary basis. Each story is reviewed twice using a validated rating instrument with 10 criteria: novelty of the treatment, its availability, disease-mongering, benefits, harms, evidence, sources, cost and alternative options available. Reviewers also post commentaries on each article.

All reviews are archived on the website, and a host of other features, including cumulative scores for the major media outlets, are available to journalists, health professionals and the general public alike.

A Skeptics’ Guide to Chiropractic

By Skeptics Association of South Australia

The Skeptics Association of South Australia accepts evidence-based chiropractic but advocates further research for unsubstantiated practices.

Chiropractic was founded by Daniel David Palmer in September 1895 in Davenport, Iowa. He performed his first chiropractic adjustment on a janitor named Harvey Lillard. Palmer examined Lillard and allegedly found an out-of-place vertebra in his spine. After applying pressure that moved the vertebra back into place, Lillard’s hearing returned.

Where is the proof in pseudoscience?

By Peter Ellerton

An understanding of the process underpinning science can help us recognise anti-science movements that masquerade as science to sway public opinion on issues such as climate change and vaccination.

The word “pseudoscience” is used to describe something that is portrayed as scientific but fails to meet scientific criteria.

This misrepresentation occurs because actual science has creditability (which is to say it works), and pseudoscience attempts to ride on the back of this credibility without subjecting itself to the hard intellectual scrutiny that real science demands.


By Sally Woollett

Complementary medicine incorporates complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) and therapies. Traditional and natural medicines can also be described using this term.

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

Complementary medicine considers the maintenance of wellness and the treatment of illness in four domains:

  • mind–body medicine, including meditation;
  • biologically based practices, including dietary supplements and herbal medicines;
  • manipulative and body-based practices, including osteopathy, naturopathy and chiropractic; and
  • energy medicine, including reiki and bioelectromagnetic-based therapies.

Why eat your vitamins when you can now shoot them up?

By Peter McCaffery

University of Aberdeen

A new fad among expensive health clinics is to deliver vitamins intravenously, but does this help or harm health?

Now appearing in a tabloid near you, reports of the latest fad – infusion of intravenous vitamins, which, exactly as described, is vitamins applied through an intravenous drip. Sounds a little extreme considering these are chemicals we used to get through crunching a carrot or sucking on an orange.

But celebrities, the rich and the famous are arriving at clinics to sit (sometimes for hours at a time) and have high doses of vitamins delivered straight into their veins.