RD105 - Regulation of Naturopaths

Executive Summary:

The practice of naturopathy is not a regulated health profession in Virginia. House Bill 2487, introduced by Delegate Terry G. Kilgore in 2011, would have amended Code of Virginia Title 54.1 to require the Board of Medicine to license and regulate naturopaths as independent practitioners. House Bill 2487 was left in the House Committee of Health, Welfare and Institutions and referred to the Joint Commission on Health Care for study.

Generally, there are two broad categories of naturopathic practice:

• Traditional naturopaths have varied educational backgrounds in naturopathy, from having no standard professional educational requirements to non-degree certificates, as well as doctoral programs. The role of the traditional naturopath is to educate and support the health of clients through non-invasive means. The number of traditional naturopaths practicing in Virginia is estimated to be in the hundreds and may exceed 1,000.

• Naturopathic physicians typically graduate from an accredited four-year, residential naturopathic medical school and subsequently pass a postdoctoral board examination, known as the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations or NPLEX. Currently, 24 individuals trained as naturopathic physicians are known to live in Virginia. Sixteen states license naturopathic practitioners.

Virginia previously licensed naturopaths; but in 1980, the Board of Medicine repealed licensure provisions while grandfathering in the four naturopaths who had maintained their licensure. The last license expired in 2002; thereby, ending Virginia’s regulation of naturopathy. However, since 2005, five bills have been introduced to regulate naturopathic physicians in Virginia; none of the bills were reported out of the originating Committee. In 2005, the Board of Health Professions initiated an exhaustive review of the regulation of naturopaths and found that the “risk of harm" criterion for licensure was not met.

The two-year JCHC study examined and reported on the various arguments presented by interested parties on whether naturopathic physicians should be regulated. Based on the study findings and extensive public comment, Joint Commission members voted to take no action to regulate naturopathic physicians.