Document Type : Original Article
Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Complementary medicine (CM) use is a ubiquitous aspect of an increasingly consumer- driven model of healthcare delivery and plays an increasingly prominent role in the Australian health sector. Yet there is limited empirical research investigating the quality and integrity of protections for consumers in Australia. The aim of this study is to help address this gap in knowledge by exploring how members of the public engage with protection mechanisms related to CM use.
This study utilised a cross-sectional online survey to recruit a sample of 1132 Australian adults aged 18 and over. Purposive convenience sampling was used to recruit participants from an existing database of Australian adults who had expressed interest in participating in research.
The majority of the participants (64.0%) had visited a CM practitioner in their lifetime. However, a minority of participants (36.9%) indicated they would feel confident in knowing where to complain if something went wrong with the treatment they received from a CM practitioner. Most participants (74.7%) had used a CM product in their lifetime. Specifically, 32.3% had ‘ever’ used an herbal product and 69.9% had ‘ever’ used a nutritional supplement. However, a minority of participants (32.7%) indicated they would feel confident knowing where to complain if something went wrong with a herbal or nutritional supplement they used. Most participants indicated a lack of knowledge about how CM practitioners and CM products are regulated in Australia.
The findings of this study clearly highlight a concerning lack of knowledge by CM patients and consumers regarding the regulation of CM in Australia. From a policy perspective, it is necessary to seek proactive approaches that target complaint-related knowledge of the CM patients and consumers through education and advocacy efforts.