“One Medicine” – A new approach to healthcare?


“One Medicine” is a revolutionary approach to healthcare, which involves sharing knowledge between doctors and vets in order to improve treatment for both humans and animals. Animals and humans often suffer from surprisingly similar conditions; yet, historically, these two fields have been treated separately.

The origins of “One Medicine” are often linked to 19th century German physician Rudolf Virchow, who declared that there should be “no dividing line” between animal and human medicine. Today, according to the World Health Organisation, this type of approach is particularly relevant to “food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combatting antibiotic resistance”.

Noel Fitzpatrick, a client of Bristows, is a world-leading veterinary surgeon who has been championing the “One Medicine” approach. He is most well-known for his Channel 4 television series “The Supervet” in which he and his surgery, Fitzpatrick Referrals, treat pets with difficult conditions, including performing prosthetic surgery and treating advanced tumours. His charity, the Humanimal Trust, supports “One Medicine” and its aim is to provide a “better and more sustainable solution for the delivery of drugs and implants to treat human and animal medicine”.

Animals have traditionally been used to test the efficacy of drugs and treatments intended for humans. However, the Humanimal Trust argues that there is no reason for otherwise healthy laboratory animals to be subject to these experiments, where there are vast numbers of successful animal case studies which could be used instead. The Humanimal Trust has decided to focus on five areas of medicine: musculoskeletal disease; neurology and neurosurgery; medical and surgical oncology; infection and antibiotic resistance; and regenerative medicine.

Similarly, there have been a number of innovations and valuable know-how generated in the veterinary field, such as the prosthetic implant technology pioneered by Noel Fitzpatrick. “One Medicine” envisages these innovations and learnings being deployed, and co-developed with traditional research centres and life sciences companies, to fundamentally improve human medicine and surgical procedures.

It is clear that there is much overlap between the fields of human and veterinary medicine; although, it remains to be seen just how useful human treatment will be to animals and vice versa. There are, of course, clear biological differences between humans and animals. However if carefully investigated, monitored and regulated, this revolutionary approach seemingly has the potential to bring huge advances in both fields, and ultimately improve outcomes for human and animal patients alike.