I was alerted to the following conference announcement:
The MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health is delighted to invite you to the event ‘Integrative Medicine and Health in prevention and management of COVID-19 and long COVID’ on Thursday 2 June 16.00–18.00 CEST.
This event will give you in-depth information about:
Expert speakers will share their knowledge and insights about how:
• Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Health interventions can improve resilience to COVID-19 infection.
• Promoting resilience and health restoration can reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 or development of Long COVID.
• These interventions can improve the recovery from Long COVID.
Key speakers and topics:
Therapeutic strategies of complementary medicines in the COVID 19 pandemic and Long COVID in addition to conventional medicine
Dr Joanna Dietzel, MD Neurologist, Acupuncturist. Department for integrative & complementary medicine, Institute of social medicine, epidemiology and health economics, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.
Chinese herbal medicine treatment in cases of infections with SARS-CoV-2 – therapeutic strategies for COVID-19 and Long COVID
Dr Christian Thede, MD, General practitioner, specialised in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Former lecturer in Chinese medicine, University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany
Instructor for Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at International Society of Chinese Medicine (SMS).
Traditional and Complementary Medicine contributions to health system resilience during COVID-19 – the WHO perspective
Dr Geetha Kopalakrishna, MD, Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery
Technical Officer at Traditional, Complementary & Integrative Medicine, Department of Service Delivery and Safety, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
Key member of the AYUSH-based COVID-19 response Task Force for the Government of India.
Research programme into integrative medicine’s contribution to improving resilience to COVID-19 infection and reducing the risk of severe COVID-19 or development of Long COVID
Dr Helene M. Langevin, Director at National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (MD), USA. Previously, Director of the Harvard Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston (MA) and professor of neurological sciences at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (VT).
Q&A sessions after the presentations.
Resilience to infections: a solution for COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses
Studies show that certain common medical conditions put people at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. Nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations could be attributed to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure. There is increasing awareness that a health system that focuses on improving health could prevent all these conditions to a large extent.
More than 40% of people who have or had COVID-19 get long COVID, and among people who needed hospitalization, the statistics go up to 57%. The recovery from such post viral syndromes will be greatly helped by offering patients access to complementary and integrative medicine interventions that aim at restoring their health balance.
MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health
The event is hosted by the members of the MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health:
Michèle Rivasi, Greens/EFA, France
Sirpa Pietikäinen, EPP, Finland
Tilly Metz, Greens/EFA, Luxembourg
Margrete Auken, Greens/EFA, Denmark
Romana Jerković, S&D, Croatia
Manuela Ripa, Greens/EFA, Germany
I had not been aware of the ‘MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health‘. Therefore, I looked it up and found this:
The newly established Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health continues the work of the former MEP Interest Group on CAM. This group brings together MEPs who work collectively to promote the inclusion of CAM as part of Integrative Medicine & Health in all possible European Parliament public health policy.
Why an Interest Group in the European Parliament?
One in two EU citizens uses complementary medicine either alongside or as an alternative to conventional biomedical care. This high demand is not yet reflected in EU or national health policy or provision. In addition, there is diversity in complementary medicine regulation across the EU. There are differences in who can practice complementary medicine, what qualifications are required and how services are offered and financed. These discrepancies mean that citizens experience practical and attitudinal barriers that limit their access to and use of TCIM.
The health sector in the EU Member States is facing considerable challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), increasing prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and soaring costs. Complementary medicine can offer a significant contribution to meet these challenges. These modalities are “integrative”, offering patient-centered healthcare, based on evidence-informed integration of conventional biomedicine and complementary medicine. Integrative Medicine and Health focuses on the whole person and considers the individual in its physical, psychological, spiritual, social and environmental context. It is inclusive of all professions and practices that use this approach and meets the demand of EU citizens for a more holistic, patient-centered approach in medicine. At the same time, TCIM is at the center of political and scientific debate. In this context, a forum for discussion on Integrative and Complementary Medicine’s contribution to EU health systems will bring clarity and rationality to this debate.
Aims and objectives of the Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health
- Establish and maintain a forum for discussion and action with all stakeholders regarding Integrative Medicine and Health.
- Raise awareness of Integrative Medicine and its contribution to more sustainable healthcare systems in the EU and a more holistic approach to health.
- Focus on the integration of complementary modalities into the health systems of the EU Member States.
- Protect and promote citizens’ right to choose their own healthcare while providing access to Integrative Medicine and Health information.
- Advocate for EU involvement in setting unified standards to regulation of Integrative Medicine and Health.
Unified standards? But what about high or perhaps just scientific standards? What about first doing the research and then making claims about CAM or TCIM or however you decide to call it? Has common sense gone out of fashion?
Yes, you guessed it: I am seriously underwhelmed by all this. To show you why, let me list just a few claims from the above two statements that are based purely on wishful thinking:
- Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Health interventions can improve resilience to COVID-19 infection.
- These interventions can improve the recovery from Long COVID.
- Studies show that certain common medical conditions put people at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.
- The recovery from such post viral syndromes will be greatly helped by offering patients access to complementary and integrative medicine interventions that aim at restoring their health balance.
- One in two EU citizens uses complementary medicine either alongside or as an alternative to conventional biomedical care.
- The health sector in the EU Member States is facing considerable challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), increasing prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and soaring costs. Complementary medicine can offer a significant contribution to meet these challenges.
- These modalities are “integrative”, offering patient-centered healthcare, based on evidence-informed integration of conventional biomedicine and complementary medicine.
- Integrative medicine … meets the demand of EU citizens for a more holistic, patient-centered approach in medicine.
I find all this confusing and concerning in equal measure. I also seriously doubt that the forum for discussion on Integrative and Complementary Medicine will bring clarity and rationality to this debate. If they really wanted a debate, they would need to include a few critical thinkers; can anyone recognize one on the list of speakers? I cannot!
I fear the aim of the group and their meeting is to mislead us all into thinking that CAM, TCIM, etc. generate more good than harm without ever delivering the evidence for that assumption. Therefore, I suggest they rename both the conference as well as their group:
‘Wishful thinking in prevention and management of COVID-19 and long COVID’
MEP Interest Group on Wishful Thinking and Promotion of Quackery
As an antidote to wishful thinking, I recommend reading some proper science papers on the subject. Here are the conclusions of an up-to-date and wishful-thinking-free review on the subject of post-acute infection syndrome:
Unexplained post-acute infection syndromes (PAISs) appear to be an under-recognized feature of a spectrum of infectious diseases in a minority of patients. At present, our understanding of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms and etiologic factors is poor and there are no known objective markers or effective therapeutic options. More basic biomedical research is needed. The overlap of symptoms, signs, and general features of the individual PAISs suggests the involvement of shared pathological pathways and the possibility that common diagnostic markers, or even a unified etiological model, might be established.
However, some symptoms or clinical characteristics seem to be trigger-specific or more prevalent in one PAIS than in others, emphasizing the need for cohorts with a well-documented infectious trigger. The overall clinical picture of many PAISs often overlaps with the presentation of post-infectious ME/CFS or fibromyalgia, or resembles other fatiguing, neurological, or rheumatic disorders. Exploiting existing knowledge of these conditions might help guide future scientific discovery and progress in clinical care.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic uncovered a significant gap in knowledge about post-acute sequelae of infectious diseases and identified the need for better diagnostic care and clinical infrastructure for patients experiencing these long-term effects. In addition to basic biomedical research, more needs to be done to refine diagnostic criteria and obtain more reliable estimates of the prevalence and societal burden of these disorders to help shape health-policy decisions. Moreover, we call for unified nomenclature and better conceptualization of post-acute infection symptoms.
There is much to be done, but the unprecedented amount of attention and resources that have recently been allocated to the study of COVID-19-related pathology brings a promise of much-needed progress in the wider field of unexplained infection-associated chronic disability.