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Abstract from

Regulation of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Trans-Tasman Perspective

Barbara von Tigerstrom is a Senior Lecturer, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Katherine Ellena is a Legal Researcher with an international non-government organisation, IFES, in New Delhi, India.

Like many jurisdictions, New Zealand faces the challenge of regulating complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the framework governing healthcare providers and products. In doing so it must respond appropriately to limited evidence as it attempts to balance various objectives, including safety, health promotion, consumer pro­tection, consumer choice, accountability, and protection of providers from arbitrary or unreasonable interference. Some practitioners of CAM may be regulated as registered practitioners under the Health Prac­titioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (eg, chiropractors, or physicians who use CAM modalities). All providers are subject to certain accountability mechanisms including, most importantly, the juris­diction of the Health and Disability Commissioner. In disciplinary proceedings and investigations by the Health and Disability Com­missioner, key issues that have emerged in relation to the practice of CAM are defining the standard of care, informed consent and financial exploitation. In relation to CAM products, the regulatory framework is in a phase of significant change as New Zealand moves toward a joint Australia-New Zealand regime for the regulation of all therapeutic products. For New Zealand this means a shift away from the historically very lax approach to CAM products, raising concerns about the impact on New Zealand’s industry and consumers. The proposed new regime will provide a transitional period and classify most CAM products as ‘low-risk’ products subject to less stringent requirements. The evolving regimes for both products and practitioners reflect inter­national trends that are moving cautiously toward integration and embracing a risk-based approach to regulation in this area.

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