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Integrative medicine: more than the promotion of unproven treatments?

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It would seem not …

Any uninitiated observer could be forgiven for being confused. First, alternative medicine became complementary medicine, and now it seems to have morphed into integrative (or integrated) medicine. Proponents of this form of health care are adamant that these terms are not synonymous, but is that true?

The best of both worlds

Integrative medicine made its debut in the mid-1990s with the slogan “the best of both worlds”.1 A 2001 editorial in the British Medical Journal stated that “Integrated medicine (or integrative medicine as it is referred to in the United States) is practising medicine in a way that selectively incorporates elements of complementary and alternative medicine into comprehensive treatment plans alongside solidly orthodox methods of diagnosis and treatment.”1 The United States Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health and others have modified such descriptions, stressing that the modalities used must be “informed by evidence”.2 But why only “informed by” and not “based on” evidence? Have the advocates of integrative medicine perhaps realised that, in the latter case, the term would be synonymous with “evidence-based medicine” and thus largely superfluous?

Holistic medicine