Integrative medicine or integrative health is the combination of practices and methods of alternative medicine with evidence based medicine. The term has been popularised by, among others, Deepak Chopra, VA Shiva Ayyadurai, Andrew Weil and Prince Charles. Weil says that patients should take the Western medicine prescribed by the doctor, and could significantly benefit from complementary therapies such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and herbal remedies, meditation and other strategies.
In the UK, the universities of Buckingham and Westminster have previously offered courses in integrative medicine, for which they have received criticism. Integrative medicine receives the same types of criticisms that are directed at alternative medicine. Arnold S. Relman, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine wrote:
There is no doubt that modern medicine as it is now practiced needs to improve its relations with patients, and that some of the criticisms leveled against it by people such as Weil — and by many more within the medical establishment itself — are valid. There also can be no doubt that a few of the “natural” medicines and healing methods now being used by practitioners of alternative medicine will prove, after testing, to be safe and effective. This, after all, has been the way in which many important therapeutic agents and treatments have found their way into standard medical practice in the past. Mainstream medicine should continue to be open to the testing of selected unconventional treatments. In keeping an open mind, however, the medical establishment in this country must not lose its scientific compass or weaken its commitment to rational thought and the rule of evidence.There are not two kinds of medicine, one conventional and the other unconventional, that can be practiced jointly in a new kind of “integrative medicine.” Nor, as Andrew Weil and his friends also would have us believe, are there two kinds of thinking, or two ways to find out which treatments work and which do not. In the best kind of medical practice, all proposed treatments must be tested objectively. In the end, there will only be treatments that pass that test and those that do not, those that are proven worthwhile and those that are not. Can there be any reasonable “alternative”?
The US government has funded studies of integrative medicine through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale School of Medicine, wrote that NCCAM’s activities are “used to lend an appearance of legitimacy to treatments that are not legitimate.” Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicinesaid “It’s a new name for snake oil.”
Organizations such as The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, The College of Medicine and The Sunflower Jam that advocate or raise money for integrative medicine in the UK have been criticised in the British Medical Journal for promoting unproven complementary treatments.