The ECPM is a European federation of medical doctors' associations representing over 50,000 members who practice alternative and complementary medicines (CAM).
In addition to the 45 member associations (homeopathy, anthroposophic medicine, Chinese medicine and acupuncture, herbal medicine, naturopathy, neural therapy, manual medicine) made up entirely of medical professionals, its correspondent members also include the two major European patient associations that use CAM and the European Coalition on Homeopathic and Anthroposophic Medicinal Products. These associations are established in the various member states of the EU.
The aim of the ECPM is to promote plurality in medicine at the EU level as well as in the different member states of the EU.
In order to make pluralism become a reality, the ECPM works to achieve the following objectives:
About 40% of European patients choose CAM medicines because they have become aware of the need to be responsible for their own health and have decided to play an active role in the prevention and treatment of diseases.
These patients have understood the importance of lifestyle for health and know that there is more to health than merely curing diseases. They choose to use CAM because they seek medical practices that go beyond healing their body and also consider their mind and spirit. They also use CAM medicines because they want to avoid undesirable side effects as much as possible for both the primary treatment as well as for comedication with conventional medical treatments. We know that these patients have become highly aware of the iatrogenic effects of certain treatments over the past ten years as a result of media exposure.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that drug testing and control agencies in Europe, to the best of our knowledge, have never reported any adverse events due to CAM medication, which confirms their harmlessness.
A growing number of doctors throughout Europe attend CAM medical training courses (most of them provided by private institutions) because they feel they need to extend their "art of healing" and have been convinced that human beings are more than their biomolecular existence.
In his proposal "A reflection process for a new health strategy" (July 2004), Mr David Byrne (former European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection) recalls that, "The role of the EU is to protect citizens, foster synergies by promoting partnerships, integrate health into all EU programmes and inform citizens and health players." The European Commission draft concerning health and consumer protection goes in the same direction (KOM-2005-115).
For this reason, we would like the following considerations to be taken into account in the future directives:
Patients must be able to freely choose their treatments. This is why we consider it essential for CAM to be recognised within official EU documents. In this respect, we recall that the proposed Directive on "the status of non-conventional medicine in Europe", which was passed in 1997 by the European Parliament in Brussels, requested the European Commission (Paul Lannoye Report) to pass legislation on this subject.
As already stated, the medicinal products used in CAM have very few side effects. It is therefore appropriate for specific evaluation criteria to be used for these practices instead of extreme standard evaluation criteria which are used for conventional pharmacology with potentially dangerous side effects.
This is why it would be advisable to fund clinical studies conducted by experts experienced in such medicines using a CAM-specific budget at the European level. Only CAM practitioners are able to provide adequate and competent advice regarding their use.
In order to ensure adequate patient protection, it is also advisable to guarantee the quality of CAM practitioners. Therefore, we recommended officially recognising private training institutes in future and involving them as much as possible in the official university medical curriculum to ensure the effective transfer of consistent medical knowledge and practice to students and offer them full training if they wish.
"Employing more expensive therapies when less expensive equally effective alternatives exist is a waste of taxpayers' money" (David Byrne). From this point of view, it is extremely surprising that CAM is excluded from health insurance refunding in several European countries, which is an unjust measure for CAM users, in particular for the poorest of them… Such policies prevent citizens from freely choosing their treatment, which is a fundamental human right.
As we have said earlier, a special budget should be allocated to CAM to promote further research in the field. Although this had been envisaged in the past (COST Action B4 – Unconventional medicine), there have been very few measures taken so far.
Moreover, recommendations in the COST Action B4 underlined the need to establish an independent healthcare office with the participation of CAM experts.
The mission of this committee would be to promote research in non-conventional medicine. But the European Commission never followed up in this initiative.
If the aim of EU’s new health strategy is to help all citizens discover a new health concept extending beyond the fight of disease (David Byrne), it is necessary to provide accurate and clear information about CAM practices. All patient associations and CAM practitioners would be delighted to take part in this effort.
President : Dr. med. Susanne Schunder-Tatzber