There have been some remarks made on Twitter in the past few days by some journalists and others about the lack of credentials of several medical doctors [myself included]. These tweets have called these doctors “quacks” and the Pan African Conference on Integrative Medicine [PACIM] taking place at Spier, a “quackery conference”. These tweets are uninformed opinions and could be construed as hate speech. We feel that this is an opportune time to set the record straight.

Integrative medicine:

  • supports health using the most natural and least invasive approaches to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
  • It is guided by scientific, experiential and traditional evidence, and employs strategies best suited to each patient i.e. it is based on sound evidence.
  • It neither rejects conventional medicine, nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically.
  • It recognises the holistic nature of the physical-energetic-informational system of each individual, and recognises that each person is different.
  • It also reaffirms the relationship between the practitioner and the patient, who work together as a team.
  • All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration so as to prevent or minimize the impact of disease.
  • Integrative medicine is systems-based, treating the system as a whole, correcting causes and restoring health.

The following tools are used:

  • Education about lifestyle changes, including exercise, nutrition, stress management, cessation of bad habits, etc., where applicable.
  • Evidence based therapies [vitamins, minerals, hormones, etc] which will restore the functional integrity of the biochemical system, where applicable.
  • Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, and other compounded products manufactured by compounding pharmacies, where applicable.
  • Intravenous therapies including vitamins, minerals and other nutraceuticals, where applicable.
  • Neuro-muscular stimulation using needles/injections or low-energy laser, where applicable. [This does not follow classical acupuncture points or principles.]
  • Pharmaceutical drugs, where applicable.
  • Surgery, where applicable.

Thus, it can be seen from the above that integrative medicine does not purport to be a new speciality of medicine, and is not different to conventional medicine, other than it places an emphasis on lifestyle management and assisting the body’s physiological and biochemical processes to normalise and recover.

Globally the present medical system is in jeopardy due to the high cost of treating chronic disease, and perceptions amongst the public regarding poor outcomes. The rise in chronic disease trends and related healthcare spending in the South Africa and in many other countries around the world is unsustainable. Type 2 diabetes alone is a looming global pandemic with incalculable consequences. In the USA, 80% or more of all healthcare spending is tied to the treatment of conditions rooted in poor lifestyle choices. Chronic diseases and conditions—such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, multiple types of cancer—are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health conditions.

In the most recent 2017 statsSA, 7 of the top 10 causes of death can be treated with education and lifestyle modifications [].

There are many hospitals and health care plans in USA that are embracing integrative medicine, as it is cost saving for everyone and improves patient outcomes.

Prescription drugs 3rd leading cause of death in the USA

Prescription drugs are now considered the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA.

Other terms used around the world to describe integrative medicine include Functional Medicine, Holistic Medicine and Anti-Aging medicine.

Integrative medicine is not to be confused with Complementary and Alternative medicine [CAM]. Although some medical doctors are dually registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of SA [AHPCSA], this is independent of their practice of integrative medicine. There are also many Naturopathic and Homeopathic doctors registered with the AHPCSA who practise integrative medicine. The vast majority of medical doctors practising integrative medicine are not registered with the AHPCSA, and dual registration is no longer encouraged.

Although CAM is mentioned in definitions of integrative medicine internationally, we recognise that certain complementary professions are registered with the AHPCSA, and have defined scopes of practice. The majority of integrative medical doctors do not practise CAM, thus are not infringing on the scopes of practice of professions registered with the AHPCSA, and do not practise elements of those professions unless [dually] registered to do so.

We trust that this letter sheds some light on what integrative medicine really is, and that the ill-informed comments made by some members of the public will cease.

Dr David M. Nye
South African Society for Integrative Medicine (SASIM)
Work: 021-5313545
Cell: 082 6418800