Most people have heard of, or tried, a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). This is a complex topic, not only because there are so many different types of CAM, but also because there are diversified opinions provided by media, healthcare workers and other individuals. At APA, we neither promote nor discourage the use of CAM, but seek to provide information and resources to help you make an informed decision about what is best for your health.

What is CAM?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is an alternative method of treatment which can include medicinal products, practices or methods of treatment which can be used in place of standard or conventional treatment or in conjunction with standard treatment. Complementary therapies are intended to be used in conjunction with standard medical practice, while alternative therapies are used instead of conventional treatment. When complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medicine this will sometimes be called “integrative medicine”.

CAM is often based on traditional or cultural practices which may have been used for centuries while conventional medicine is mostly based on medicines, practices or methods which are the subject of continuous scientific testing and modification. Specific medicines or therapies classified as CAM may have been trialled in scientific studies and reported in conventional medical journals for several diseases and conditions, however they are often not deemed to be medicine that must be practiced by registered medical practitioners (General Practitioner or specialist). However, many GPs and specialists may recommend CAM to their patients if there is sufficient evidence to include them as part of the standard protocol for care.

Although CAM can be regulated by Professional Associations and/or the Therapeutic Goods Administration, there are several modalities which are practiced without sufficient regulation or supervision and there have been instances where the irresponsible treatment by well meaning CAM practitioners has led to unsatisfactory outcomes in patients.

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