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Complementary medicines training provides balance, not bias

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) training for students in the health professions improves their ability to provide balanced, evidence-based advice to patients.

Dr Evelin Tiralongo, a lecturer in Griffith Universitys School of Pharmacy, has found CAM education integrated into the pharmacy curriculum rationalised rather than marginalised students attitudes.

A survey and interviews of more than 100 pharmacy students in second, third and fourth years at Griffith found that students with a more positive attitude to CAM at the start of their degree changed to a more careful assessment of CAM therapy, whereas students with a more negative attitude at first, realised that some CAM therapies are based on significant evidence, she said.

We found that CAM education encouraged students to look for evidence of effectiveness, evaluate that evidence, and then make informed decisions in the best interests of their patients, she said.

Overall 96 per cent of pharmacy students believed they need to be equipped to advise patients about CAM and 90 percent said it should therefore be a core part of their education.

Dr Tiralongo said CAM education should be integrated into the core teaching curricula for pharmacy, nursing and medical students around the country.

Health professionals have a responsibility to understand CAM, given that more than half of the population already use herbal medicines, vitamins and minerals, and therapies such as acupuncture.

Our National Medicines Policy for example covers prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as complementary medicines.

Given pharmacists ethical and legal responsibility to counsel patients on medicines they supply, we need to ensure graduates have a reasonable knowledge of CAM and the ability to finding the best options for patient care.

Dr Tiralongos research interests include the clinical efficacy of CAM and the pharmacological potential of medicinal plants and macrofungi.


Contact: Evelin Tiralongo
Research Australia

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