Sectarian aberrations: the government’s plan to (finally) regulate alternative medicine

Sectarian aberrations the governments plan to finally regulate alternative medicine

Soft, alternative, complementary, integrative medicine, or even unconventional care… These practices are now on the rise in our country, even more so since the health crisis. But whatever the name given to them, they have above all in common that they do not present any benefit demonstrated by scientific studies. And to be, too often, gateways to therapeutic excesses or forms of control, as was again recalled on the occasion of the first day of the National Conference on the fight against sectarian aberrations, which are held this Thursday and Friday at the Ministry of the Interior.

However, despite the enthusiasm of the French for these therapies, the Ministry of Health had chosen, in recent years, to largely ignore this vast field, which includes practices ranging from acupuncture to naturopathy, including ” even more esoteric treatments (energy medicine, Ayurvedic, reiki etc.). Asked about the subject, its representatives invariably gave the same answer: “It is not about health, it does not concern us”. It is therefore potentially a small revolution in this area that Agnès Firmin Le Bodo, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Health and Prevention, announced today, with the creation in the coming weeks of a “Committee of support for the supervision of non-conventional care practices”. “It is not a question of carrying out a witch hunt, but of securing recognized practices, which meet a need of our fellow citizens”, she specified.

Mapping of unconventional therapies

Because, in fact, these “therapies” are hardly regulated today: “They do not fall within the scope of competence of any health agency or authority, so they escape all the rules of evaluation and vigilance usually applied. in the field of care”, recalled the Minister Delegate. This committee will therefore have the task of drawing up a map of these unconventional therapies, in order “to provide clarification so that we no longer mix practices at risk of sectarian aberrations and those implemented by caregivers in a complementary way”. . Ultimately, this work should allow the creation of a system for recording these non-conventional care practices (PSNC), she also specified.

This committee will not start from scratch. From 2009 to 2015, a “technical support group” within the Directorate General for Health had already carried out significant inventory and evaluation work. The committee announced today will take up these analyses. With one difference: it should be more open to civil society, since Agnès Firmin Le Bodo intends to associate associations and citizen collectives, such as the No Fakemed collective (at the origin of the reimbursement of homeopathy).

Questions about the composition of the committee

One thing is certain, the composition of this new committee – which should be known in a few weeks – will be closely monitored by the actors involved in the fight against therapeutic and sectarian abuses. Because as often, the devil is in the details. When she was still a deputy, Agnès Firmin Le Bodo had indeed supported an association called A-MCA for “agency of complementary and alternative medicines” (which have since become “adapted”), much criticized by specialists in the sector for its too much close proximity to the practices and practitioners it claimed to regulate. “A bit as if the pharmaceutical companies were members of the drug agency”, notes an observer.

Asked about the possible participation of this A-MCA in the future committee, the minister kicked in touch: “I do not know yet, she replied to the Express. But I have not changed my position: the Miviludes cannot follow all these practices, and they must be supervised. This is a public health issue that we must respond to.” This pharmacist by profession explains today that she found the A-MCA approach “revealing a need, because for my part, I was worried about seeing my patients turn to marabouts and other irrational practices during health crisis”.

Regulate or legitimize?

But some specialists in this nebulous field are already worried that the work of the committee should be accompanied by Professor Grégory Ninot, specialist at Inserm in the evaluation of “non-drug interventions”. Co-director of the Desbrest Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Montpellier, this researcher is also vice-president of Cumic, the university college of integrative and complementary medicine, whose honorary president, Jacques Kopferschmitt, had signed the preface to a White Paper on Anthroposophical Medicine – a practice still denounced by Miviludes in its latest report. In addition, we also find within the Cumic two doctors who are also members of the A-MCA… Pierre Bremond d’Ars, the president of the No FakeMed collective, however wants to be reassuring: “We will remain vigilant. If the work of this committee is based on scientific data, in the interest of the patients, everything will be fine. And if not, we will say so”.

There remains one final, essential question: isn’t framing these practices tantamount to legitimizing them? The technical support group had mainly carried out documentation and information work. It carried out reviews of the available scientific data on the benefits and risks of these practices, and communicated them to the public. Going a notch further could result in offering an official guarantee to these therapies… “The challenge is prevention, information, alerting citizens. It’s about seeing how we build our collective awareness in relation to these practices and the risks they may present”, replies the Minister Delegate.

During her speech, Agnès Firmin Le Bodo also announced other measures, in particular the regulation of digital platforms, like the work already carried out with Doctolib: “Google and KelDoc will have to do their part so that dangerous practitioners cannot no longer keep a storefront”. Awareness in training for health professions is also planned, to “develop a culture of precaution vis-à-vis these practices”, she said. Finally, the Minister Delegate hopes to see local actors (regional health agencies, prefectures, etc.) act at the level of their territories to, here too, differentiate between deviant practitioners and others. “For me, the fight against sectarian aberrations is similar to the fight against doping. We must always stay one step ahead,” she told Express. Extensive program.