Chronic heart failure

December 2010

FocusChronic heart failure

Complementary medicine in general practice

A national survey of GP attitudes and knowledge

Volume 39, No.12, December 2010 Pages 946-950

Marie Pirotta

Vicki Kotsirilos AM

Jared Brown

Jon Adams

Tessa Morgan

Margaret Williamson


Integrative medicine is a holistic approach to patient care that utilises both conventional and complementary therapy. This article compares the demographics of Australian general practitioners who do, and those who do not, practise integrative medicine, and their perceptions and knowledge about complementary medicines.


A postal survey sent to a random sample of 4032 Australian GPs.


Data from 1178 GPs was analysed. While GPs who practise integrative medicine were more knowledgeable about complementary medicine and more aware of potential adverse reactions, there were significant knowledge gaps for both groups.


Many GPs incorporate complementary medicines into their practice, whether or not they identify with the ‘integrative medicine’ label. General practitioners need to be well informed about the evidence base for, and potential risks of, complementary medicines to ensure effective decision making. Use of available resources and inclusion of complementary medicine in education programs may assist this.

Integrative medicine (IM) has been defined as, 'the combination of orthodox and complementary medicine with an emphasis on lifestyle changes'.1 The broad term 'complementary therapies' includes both ingested medicines, which are the focus of this research and are referred to as complementary medicines (CM) in this article, and other practices, such as acupuncture and physical therapies. About 40% of the general population use some form of CM every day2 and about one-third of Australians will consult their general practitioner about this use.3 There is evidence that CMs are not always safe4 and that the CM knowledge of GPs is not always sufficient to correctly advise safe use.5–7

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