Integrative medicine is little more than an "ill-conceived concept" formalising the promotion and use of unproven or disproven therapies, and is therefore in conflict with evidence-based medicine, according to an Perspective published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Professor Edzard Ernst, former Director of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in the UK, wrote that integrative medicine had morphed from alternative to complementary medicine before emerging in the mid-1990's with the slogan "the best of both worlds".
"It has been claimed that integrative medicine is merely a rebranding exercise for alternative medicine, and a critical assessment of the treatments that integrative clinics currently offer confirms this suspicion," Professor Ernst wrote.
"The vast majority of such establishments advertise alternative therapies that lack a solid evidence base."
Many offer homeopathy, for example, which the National Health and Medicine Research Council recently concluded "should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious". "'People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness."
"Promoting such questionable therapies under the guise of integrative medicine seems neither ethical nor in line with the currently accepted standards of evidence-based practice."
"Integrative medicine is an ill-conceived concept which turns out to be largely about the promotion and use of unproven or disproven therapies. It thus is in conflict with the principles of both evidence-based medicine and medical ethics," Professor Ernst concluded.