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Regulating Alternative Medicines: Disorder in the Borderlands

Michael Trebilcock and Kanksha Ghimire
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Michael Trebilcock: University of Toronto
Kanksha Ghimire: University of Toronto

C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, 2019, issue 541

Abstract: In many Western countries, the use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) has been growing. Individuals in Western countries often use CAMs in conjunction with biomedicine (also referred to as allopathic or Western medicine), or sometimes choose to rely on CAMs as alternatives to biomedicine. In most contemporary Western societies, biomedicine is relatively strictly regulated, while regulation of CAMs reflects a much less settled regulatory landscape. With use of CAMs increasing and concerns about standards, an approach to regulating certain popular forms of CAMs is needed. The central regulatory challenge is how to provide for patients’ autonomy over their own treatment while addressing the core challenges of severe information asymmetries and negative externalities. Regulation of CAMs should be calibrated to the degree of risk entailed, especially where CAMs are promoted as substitutes for, rather than as complements to, biomedicine in treating potentially lifethreatening health conditions.

Keywords: Health Policy; Health Care Delivery and Management (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I1 I18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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