Alt/comp pamphlet biased

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 44, No. 2, March 2002, Page 69 Letters

Recently the BCMA distributed a pamphlet “Alternative & Complementary Therapies,” meant as a patients’ guide, to doctors all over BC. It is virtually unchanged from the draft to which, over a year and a half ago, the Association of Complementary Physicians of BC (ACPBC) and Canadian Complementary Medical Association () objected, because of its narrow and negative view on complementary medicine in general. Further, how helpful is it for doctors to be asked about complementary therapies of which many of them know next to nothing? What is the point of such a pamphlet when far better guides abound?

As a start, consider the following:

•  The BC HealthGuide, distributed to all households in BC, has a chapter (Chapter 19) on complementary medicine. Though conservative, its presentation is reasonably balanced. Note that the HealthGuide is endorsed by the BCMA, BCCFP, RNABC, College of Pharmacists of BC, etc.

•  The Health Canada publication Perspectives on Alternative & Complementary Health Care is available to all physicians and is worth perusing. Phone: (613) 954-5995), web:

•  The BC Medical Library has recently, with the assistance of the ACPBC, added quite a number of useful books to its collection on complementary medicine. Doctors are encouraged to use this excellent service that can also provide names of useful journals or web sites (such as those of the National Institutes of Health, the Tzu Chi Institute, etc.).

In all likelihood many or most doctors, and certainly the majority of patients, will find the BCMA pamphlet shallow, biased and, apart from its consumer-beware message, wanting in pertinent information.

—C. Lam, MD, President 
Association of Complementary Physicians of BC

Alt/comp: Dr Lane replies

As indicated in Dr Heidi Oetter’s covering letter at the time of distribution, the Alternative Therapies and Allied Health Committee of the Council on Health Promotion developed the pamphlet. This process occurred over more than 2 years, and there were numerous drafts and revisions. You and representatives from your Association of Complementary Physicians of BC met with the committee. Your letters and the concerns expressed at that meeting were carefully considered. The pamphlet in its present form was approved by the Committee, the Council, and finally the Board of the BCMA before printing and distribution took place.

Complementary and alternative medicine practices have undoubtedly received great public attention in recent years. For this reason alone it was felt important to develop such a pamphlet. The pamphlet attempts to present information reflecting mainstream medical opinion in a balanced way. It also stresses the importance of open communication between the patient and the physician.

Thank you for your suggestions about other references. The committee was aware of those that you mention. The selection made was partly dictated by the limited space available.

Please be assured that your comments will be considered with the other feedback that is being received, and forwarded to the Alternative Therapies and Allied Health Committee.

—Dr Jim Lane, Chair 
Council on Health Promotion, BCMA

. Alt/comp pamphlet biased. BCMJ, Vol. 44, No. 2, March, 2002, Page(s) 69 - Letters.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply