Confronted with the side effects of treatments, lack of time for caregivers or the absence of effective remedies for everyday ailments, users of health systems in developed countries are increasingly turning to unconventional medicines (such as traditional Chinese medicine or homeopathy), which have little recognition by science or the medical community. The Centre d'analyse stratégique has been working on this issue.
The watertightness between conventional and non-conventional care is not total. The latter are increasingly included in the practices of health professionals, or even reimbursed. At the same time, users sometimes have recourse to therapists, neither doctors nor paramedical professionals, working at the limits of care and well-being.
This craze is not well known in France, although the growth of the medicinal plant market and the - more informed - demand for unconventional care in neighbouring countries suggest that the number of French people resorting to these practices is considerable. Some are concerned about this, believing that unconventional methods are ineffective or even dangerous. Others, on the contrary, argue that these medicines could be useful in the field of prevention, chronic diseases and pain, or even in cases where conventional medicine has failed. These therapies could also contribute to a decrease in drug use and a more holistic approach to health and life course management.
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In view of the risks and potentials associated with the combined increase in supply and demand for non-conventional medicines, action by public authorities seems necessary. On the one hand, it would be necessary to ensure the safety of these techniques and to supervise the practice and training of therapists. On the other hand, it would be necessary to organise the integration of these medicines into the health system, when they can contribute, in addition to conventional care, to a more complete management of patients.
Growing interest in unconventional medicine raises questions
How can the benefits of unconventional medicines be exploited while limiting the risks?
Author: Mathilde Reynaudi, Social Issues Department.