Lately the healthcare team in Sydney has dived into the world of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), an area that has been scrutinized by industry critics, but one that is increasingly growing in credibility and quality. With as many fans as it has skeptics, there is no denying that it is a hot topic for debate among healthcare professionals, the media, and the public relations specialists who have to tackle all sides of the issues!
In an attempt to build on our insight into the CAMs industry, Will Collie and I attended the launch of the Complementary Health Council (CHC) of Australia’s new magazine, Complementary Medicines Today. In his introduction the President of the CHC, Richard Henfrey, provided us with an overview of the key challenges faced by the industry today. In a snapshot, the following are what Richard identifies as the top five current challenges for the CAMs industry:
1. The CAMs industry must tolerate a tough regulatory environment (under the Therapeutic Goods Administration, or TGA). Their regulation is frequently the topic of criticism due to questions of quality, safety and efficacy.
2. There is no clear consumer health organisation or patient group representing CAMs, putting the industry at a clear disadvantage when the Australian government is policy setting. This is because when the government seeks the ‘voice of the consumer’ as is common practice, there is no evident consumer group to consult, and they are instead left with groups such as CHOICE, which in may result in ‘consumerist’ opinion, rather than consumer health opinion.
3. As you may be aware, the media is increasingly preoccupied with negative stories relating to CAMs, and it is not uncommon to find content criticising the category for their inefficacy, as opposed to the amazing content we’re seeing coming through for products such as Vitamin D, Omega 3 and Calcium, just to name a few.
4. The Australian government provides minimal support for the CAMs industry in the form of health rebates or other money-back schemes, so CAMS users do not receive the same benefits in their spending as do users of traditional medicines. This was in fact the key focus of the discussion on the back of the CHC’s recent Deloitte Access Economics report into the benefit of fish oil.
5. As has already been touched upon, there is much criticism of the CAMs industry, much of it originating from a platform of professional medical and scientific critics of CAMs who continue an offensive against education in naturopathy and CAMs. This is a very tricky area and one that will continue to drive debate and discussion among all sides of the healthcare industry in Australia.
Richard also gave some compelling evidence for the use of CAMs in Australia, including the fact that research shows 75 per cent of consumers use CAMs and that 50 per cent of healthcare consultations in Australia are with a complimentary medicine specialist. These statistics demonstrate the significant presence that CAMs have in Australian healthcare, so no matter where you stand on the topic, it is worth a thought for their impact.
If you’re interested in learning more about the CHC, this is their website http://www.chc.org.au/