'...the art of regulating without regulating'

“Over ten years of alternative medicine policy, successive [UK] governments have perfected the mystical art of "regulating without regulating”… Alternative medicine practitioners are being brought under a light-touch regulatory umbrella that confers legitimacy on them while allowing them to continue business-as-usual free of any requirement to demonstrate the evidence-base for their treatments. Industries built on pseudo-science are being allowed to pass themselves off as regulated health professions while subject to few of the checks of mainstream medicine. This is happening in spite of repeated scandals demonstrating the appalling record of professional bodies in the industry who have attempted to mislead Parliament, or allowed substantial proportions of their membership to make bogus claims.” Martin Robbins, The Guardian (23rd February 2011)


A UK charity standing for treatment that works.

Suggest a CAM topic to NICE

NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) is the institution that decides which treatments will be paid for by the UK NHS and which will not. No form of CAM has ever been referred to NICE. Anyone is free to suggest a topic to NICE using the online form contained in this link.

Health select committee lunacy

Giving influence on medical policy to David Tredinnick – a man who believes moon phases affect surgery – is a bad move: “…Tredinnick is on the nuttier side of woomongery. You may also recall that his unique contribution to the expenses brouhaha was that we, the people, stumped up over £500 for astrology software for him. He then voted to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information Act. In the 1990s he was suspended in the cash-for-questions debacle. Dodgy expenses, bribery, astrology, homeopathy, lunacy (or whatever moon-based fluff is called), Tredinnick's got the full deck. Others more patient than I can and have and will continue to sigh and explain why it's all bollocks. Here's the punchline: Tredinnick has been voted on to the parliamentary health select committee. He now has de facto direct influence over policy decisions concerning medicine and the health of our nation.” Adam Rutherford, Guardian (25th June 2010)

GPs barred from applying NICE back pain guidance

“GPs are being prevented from putting controversial NICE guidance on low back pain into action because primary care organisations [PCOs] are refusing to fund its recommendations of acupuncture and spinal manipulation. Of 127 PCOs responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, half said they were currently providing no funding for spinal manipulation. And funding for acupuncture fared even worse, with only 15% of PCOs having any record of funding the procedure for low back pain in the last three years….The institute’s guidance on low back pain advises that patients should be offered exercise, a course of manual therapy or acupuncture as first-line treatments. The recommendation was fiercely attacked by musculoskeletal specialists, who questioned whether there was evidence the treatments were effective on top of standard care. Pulse’s investigation suggests PCOs have felt able to ignore NICE’s recommendation because of the controversy surrounding it.” Pulse (8th September 2010) [Free registration]

Further dilution of homeopathy offerings

"A Scottish university has become the latest institution to scrap its homeopathy provision after coming under pressure from a campaigner against “pseudoscience” courses…The course has been the target of a campaign by David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London and an outspoken critic of institutions offering courses in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). He lodged a request under the Freedom of Information Act to see the course materials in September 2009. “[Robert Gordon] closed the course just before the Information Commissioner for Scotland judged the appeal against its refusal to release course materials,” Professor Colquhoun says in his blog. He has since received the material from the university…The decision by Robert Gordon will come as a particular blow to supporters of homeopathy. The institution’s late vice-chancellor, Michael Pittilo, who died in February, was an advocate of the teaching of CAM and a trustee of The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health.”  Zoe Corbyn, Times Higher Education (19th April 2010)

Quacks fly in all directions as alternative medicine regulation fails

“Why is there a need for an alternative medicine regulator in the first place? This question has never been answered satisfactorily. Either a product is a medicine, in which case it should be allowed to make health claims and be regulated as a medicine by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), or it is not, in which case it shouldn't be allowed to make health claims and should be regulated in the same way as, say, a packet of Tic-Tacs. Allowing this bizarre pseudo-regulation to continue risks legitimising a whole range of bogus medical practices.” As panic and confusion spread among the practitioners of alternative medicine, Martin Robbins calls for the industry's products and practices to be brought under mainstream medical regulations. The Guardian (16th April 2010)

It's terminal for integrated medicine diploma

"The University of Buckingham is to withdraw accreditation from a postgraduate diploma in integrated medicine less than a year after it was validated by the institution.  The U-turn comes after concerns were raised about the "pseudo-science" content of the course in light of a campaign led by David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, an outspoken critic of university courses in complementary and alternative medicine.  Buckingham, the UK's only private university, announced last July that it was validating the two-year diploma course, run by the Bath-based charity the Integrated Health Trust (IHT). The university was involved in developing the diploma…In a statement, the university declines to say why it has changed its mind, but confirms it will "terminate its association" with the IHT from September 2011, following the completion of the diploma by the first cohort of students.The university stresses that it will maintain its "duty of care" to the students until they graduate in February 2012.” Zoe Corbyn, Times Higher Education (15th April 2010)

More quackedemia: Dangerous Chinese medicine taught at Middlesex University

“There is something very offensive about the idea that a ‘bachelor of science’ degree can be awarded by a university, as a prize for memorising gobbledygook….I asked Middlesex University for samples of their teaching materials under the Freedom of Information Act, and, as usual, the request was refused. As usual, I then asked for the mandatory internal review of the decision, and this time, most unusually, the internal review did not confirm the initial refusal and I was sent a bundle of teaching materials about Chinese Herbal Medicine, It was not all I asked for, but it is quite enough to show the absurd ideas that are still being taught as part of bachelor of Science degree in a UK University…Not only are the ideas absurd, pre-scientific, indeed antiscientific. They are also dangerous. People who have been taught this nonsense are going out and being let loose on sick people.” Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (12th April 2010)

University of Buckingham does the right thing.  The Faculty of Integrated Medicine has been fired.

“In January 2009, a course in "integrated medicine" was announced that, it was said, would be accredited by the University of Buckingham. The course was to be led by Drs Rosy Daniel and Mark Atkinson. So I sent an assessment of Rosy Daniel’s claims to "heal" cancer to Buckingham’s VC (president), Terence Kealey, After meeting Karol Sikora and Rosy Daniel, I sent an analysis of the course tutors to Kealey who promptly demoted Daniel, and put Prof Andrew Miles in charge of the course. The course went ahead in September 2009. Despite Miles’ efforts, the content was found to be altogether too alternative. The University of Buckingham has now terminated its contract with the "Faculty of Integrated Medicine", and the course will close.” Professor David Colquohoun, DC Science (1st April 2010)

Royal row 'threatens alternative medicine research'

“One of the world’s leading centres for alternative medicine research is facing closure for lack of money after a row with a senior aide to the Prince of Wales. The influential unit at the University of Exeter headed by Edzard Ernst, Britain’s first Professor of Complementary Medicine, will shut next spring unless a new financial backer can be found.” News report by Mark Henderson, Science Editor, Times Online (3rd March 2010)

How do you regulate Wu?

“The government’s review into regulation of alternative therapists has recommended that it should be compulsory to have a university degree in alternative therapies, and that universities should run such courses. And what is taught on these courses? You cannot know, because the universities have gone to shameful lengths over many years, to the point of multiple appeals at the highest level with the Information Commissioner, to keep the contents of these science degrees a closely guarded secret. Myself and Professor David Colquhoun of UCL have obtained occasional course materials from students themselves, who thought they were going to be taught the scientific evidence base for alternative medicine, and have been dismayed by what they found. You can see why the universities wanted to hide them. Handouts from the Bachelor of Science degree in Chinese Medicine at Westminster University, for example, show students being taught – on a science degree – that the spleen is “the root of post-heaven essence”, “Houses Thought (and is affected by pensiveness/over thinking) ” and is responsible for the “transformation of qi energy”, “keeping the muscles warm and firm”. “Marrow helps fill the brain”. “Sin Jiao assists the Lungs ‘dispersing function’, spreading fluids to skin in form of fine mist or vapour (so it helps regulate fluid production…)”. We also see the traditional anti-vaccine spiel, as students are taught that vaccination is a significant cause of cancer.” Ben Goldacre, Bad Science, The Guardian (20th February 2010)

'Energy therapy' project in school denounced as 'psychobabble'

“A school initiative that trains children in “energy therapy” has been criticised as unscientific by two senior academics. The “EmoTrance” project is taking place at the Haydon School in Pinner, Middlesex. Nineteen pupils are being trained in “emotional transformation”, which is described in a press release from EmoTrance.com as a “practical system for energy healing and energy working”. Kathryn Ecclestone, professor of education and social inclusion at the University of Birmingham, said: “I would question the underlying scientific evidence for this. The fact that taxpayers’ money is being spent on programmes such as EmoTrance with no debate has to be a cause for concern.” She called for a proper scientific evaluation of psychological interventions in schools. David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London and a campaigner against the teaching of pseudoscience in schools and universities, described EmoTrance as “psychobabble”. “The ‘human energy fields’ referred to on the EmoTrance website are totally unknown to science,” he said. “How can kids be taught real science if their minds are corrupted by this sort of preposterous make-believe?”” Times Higher Education (11th November 2009)

Not much Freedom of Information at University of Wales, University of Kingston, Robert Gordon University or Napier University

“It seems very reasonable to suggest that taxpayers have an interest in knowing what is taught in universities. The recent Pittilo report suggested that degrees should be mandatory in Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. So it seems natural to ask to see what is actually taught in these degrees, so one can judge whether it protects the public or endangers them. Since universities in the UK receive a great deal of public money, it’s easy. Just request the material under the Freedom of Information Act. Well, uh, it isn’t as simple as that. Every single application that I have made has been refused.” DC Science (20th October 2009)

MP David Tredennick calls for more government funding of medical astrology and remote energetic healing

“Yesterday, the House of Commons saw a debate on the funding of medical astrology. Yes. Medical Astrology. The Hansard Report of the debate has a seventeenth century feel to it. Tredinnick asserts that the phase of the moon influences the number of accidents and stops blood from clotting. He has tales of eastern lands that use astronomical signs to influence health care and governments that have official astrological systems. Britain should have them too. It goes without saying that David Tredinnick is off with the faeries. He is also the democratically elected representative of the constituency of Bosworth. His parliamentary history is tarred by his involvement with the ‘cash for questions’ affair and the recent revelations that he was using parliamentary expenses to buy astrology software and training from ‘Crucial Astro Tools’. Whilst we might dismiss this man as an eccentric buffoon, the government’s response to his speech is a large cause for concern. Tredinnick uses his speech to rant about his desire to see more government funding of quackery within the NHS and to use legislation to support quacks in their work. He covers a lot of ground. The Quackometer (15th October 2009)

A bitter pill for alternative medicine

“While Prof Ernst may have become a thorn in the side of complementary therapy, he isn't alone. With alternative therapy having entered the mainstream, leading doctors have previously called on NHS trusts to only use treatments whose benefits are based on solid evidence and aside from his studies, numerous other groups have cast doubt on their effectiveness.” Yorkshire Post (1st October 2009)

NICE guidelines on complementary/alternative medicine: More consistency and rigour are needed

“…our analysis shows that many NICE guidelines have evaluated CAM. But there is a substantial degree of inconsistency: some are comprehensive, while others are not. The decision of whether or not to consider CAM for any given topic appears to be somewhat arbitrary. Generally speaking, this inconsistency seems to be at odds with NICE’s excellent track record of evaluating conventional treatments, by utilising a transparent and rigid hierarchy of evidence for its recommendations. We therefore suggest that, in future, NICE should evaluate CAM by the same standards as conventional medicine.” Edzard Ernst and Rohini Terry, British Journal of General Practice (September 2009)

The Force, and consultation on the Pittilo report on alternative health therapies

"This report would, if implemented, create lots more nonsense exam papers funded by a lot more public money — and would produce practitioners without the absolutely crucial skill of how to assess evidence and reject or use it appropriately. As a GP, this makes me very concerned — after all, if someone has a degree, and is 'regulated' by the government, surely you'd think the 'treatment' on offer works? Sadly, and worryingly, no." Article by Margaret McCartney, MD, Financial Times (5th August 2009)

Leading academic attacks tick-box science and politically correct quackery

"The 'managerial mentality' in universities is distorting real science and promoting 'pseudoscience', according to a leading academic who campaigns against the teaching of complementary and alternative medicine in higher education. Giving the annual Paton Lecture at the British Pharmacological Society's summer meeting in Edinburgh this week, David Colquhoun said that government, universities and health bodies have succumbed to 'magic medicine'." Article by Zoë Corbyn, Times Higher Education (12th July 2009)

The NICE fiasco

"The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is an independent UK organization that provides advice on which treatments and medical practices are likely to promote health. In other words, they comment on what they think is or should be the standard of care. This is a very important function, and the NICE is generally taken seriously. That is why it was very disturbing to find that in their latest guidelines for low back pain they include recommendations for both spinal manipulation (wihout explicity naming chiropractic) and acupuncture." Article by Steven Novella, NeuroLogica blog (29th May 2009)

NICE falls for Bait and Switch by acupuncturists and chiropractors: it has let down the public and itself

"…it will become possible for aupuncturists and chiropractors to claim that they now have official government endorsement from a prestigious evidence-based organisation like NICE for "subluxations" or "Qi". Of course this isn't true. In fact the words "subluxations" or "Qi" are not even mentioned in the draft report. That is the root of the problem. They should have been. But omitting stuff like that is how the Bait and Switch trick works…How did this failure of NICE happen? It seems to have been a combination of political correctness, failure to consider secondary consequences, and excessive influence of the people who stand to make money from the acceptance of alternative medicine." Article by David Colquhoun, Research Professor, DC Science (25th May 2009)

Recruitment problems kill off CAM courses

Three British universities (Salford, Westminster and Central Lancaster) have stopped or suspended degree programs in "complementary and alternative medicine". One said that the courses were not a good academic fit and the others attributed the their decision to low enrolment. All three universities will continue to offer some 'CAM' courses in other programmes. Article by Zoë Corbyn, Times Higher Education (9th April 2009)

Complementary therapies don't save NHS money

Complementary therapies can improve quality of life but there is little evidence they reduce NHS costs, new research concludes…Dr Lesley Wye, lead author and research fellow in primary health at the University of Bristol, said: 'The health status data seems to suggest that people using these services are feeling better, that they notice some sort of a difference. But in terms of NHS cost it was all over the place. Some of them showed the cost went up, some went down and some it stayed the same,' she said. The study was published this month in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal. Report by Nigel Praities, Pulse (30th March 2009) [See the link immediately below.]

Should the NHS Alliance be endorsing alternative medicine?

"What strikes me most with the NHS Alliance's promotion of alternative medicine is the absence of the term 'evidence'. The GMC demands of its members: 'You must provide effective treatments based on the best available evidence.' This raises the question of whether the NHS Alliance is not in conflict with the accepted ethical standards of the UK medical profession." Professor Edzard Ernst, Pulse (24th February 2009)

The Northern Ireland NHS Alternative Medicine 'Trial'

"What is quite remarkable about this so called study is that the money to conduct the trial was given to a lobby group for promoting the inclusion of alternative medicine in the NHS. It is difficult to imagine any other area of government where a group with large vested interests was given permission to promote their business, under the guise of science, using tax payers money. Independent, this report is not." The Quackometer (23rd February 2009) [Includes a pdf link to the 146-page report of the trial entitled 'Evaluation of a CAM Pilot Project in Northern Ireland (2008) by Donal McDade'.]

The question about alternative medicine

Full text of a letter which appeared in the Times on 30th January 2009 pointing out to the Department of Health how it can't hope to regulate alternative treatments in any sensible way while continuing to push under the carpet the crucial question of which ones work and which don't. (DC Science)

Britain simultaneously licenses alternative medicine and outlaws it

"Every year Britons spend around £4.5 billion on treatments ranging from aromatherapy to yogic healing, with one in five visiting one of 150,000 alternative therapists. This huge business came under official regulation for the first time on January 19th [2009], when the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC to its friends, Ofquack to critics), partly financed by the Department of Health and inspired by Prince Charles's Foundation for Integrated Health, opened its doors…..Unlike the bodies that oversee doctors and nurses, the CNHC takes no interest in whether its practitioners' efforts actually work…..In the Journal of the Scottish Law Society, Douglas MacLaughlin, a Glaswegian lawyer, points out that consumer-protection laws new in 2008 specifically forbid false claims that a product can cure a disease. This could make life difficult for purveyors of alternative medicine, much of which does not work or has never been tested. That one part of government licenses alternative medicine while another bans its main sales pitch reflects a wider chaos." The Economist (22nd January 2009)

University of Salford abandons "complementary" medicine

"This is the first time that a University has decided to stop teaching quackery altogether…..All we need now is for the Department of Health, the MHRA and the endless box-ticking quangos to wake up too." Article by Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (22nd January 2009)

Most alternative medicine is illegal

"The gist of the matter is that it is now illegal to claim that a product will benefit your health if you can't produce evidence to justify the claim. I'm not a lawyer, but with the help of two lawyers and a trading standards officer I've attempted a summary. The machinery for enforcing the law does not yet work well, but when it does, there should be some very interesting cases……The fact remains, that the UK is obliged to enforce the law and presumably it will do so eventually. When it does, alternative medicine will have to change very radically. If it were prevented from making false claims, there would be very little of it left apart from tea and sympathy." Article by Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (15th January 2009)

Medicines that contain no medicine and other follies

"The government often says that it takes the best scientific advice but the Department of Health seems to have something of a blank spot when it comes to alternative medicine.….Perhaps it is the dire lack of anyone with a scientific education in government. Or could there be something in the rumour that the DoH lives in terror of being at the receiving end of a rant from the general direction of Clarence House if it doesn't behave? Whatever the reason, the matter has still not been referred to NICE, despite many requests to do so…..If the NHS employs homeopaths or spiritual healers because they are nice people who can elicit a good placebo effect, the human resources department will insist that they are fully-qualified in myths.…..There is a solution to all of this. There is room in the NHS for nice, caring people, to hold the hands of sick patients. They might be called 'healthcare workers in supportive and palliative care'. They could do a good job, without any of the nonsense…..All that stands in the way of this common sense approach is the rigidity of human resources departments which demand formal qualifications in black magic before you can cheer up sick patients. The overformalisation of nonsense has done great harm." Article by David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology, University College London (National Health Executive journal, Nov/Dec 2008) [pdf]

Staff fears about 'quackery' lead to review of alternative health courses

The University of Central Lancashire is to review all its courses in homoeopathy, herbalism and acupuncture after some staff said it should not be offering degrees in "quackery"…..Mike Eslea, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, organised an "open letter" to the vice-chancellor saying the courses contained a "roll-call of quackery" and would damage Uclan's hopes of being taken seriously as a research institution." Zoë Corbyn, Times Higher Education Supplement (4th September 2008)

'Regulating quack medicine makes me feel sick'

"If alternative remedies are either untested or ineffective, why are we promoting them?…Since May 2008, new European laws make it explicitly illegal to make claims for any sort of treatment when there is no reason to believe the claims are true. At the moment these laws are regularly and openly flouted on every hand. Enforce them and the problem is solved." David Colquhoun, Research Professor of Pharmacology, University College London (29th August 2008)

Westminster University BSc: 'amethysts emit high yin energy'

"Last year, Nature published a pretty forthright condemnation of the award of Bachelor of Science degrees in subjects that are not science: in fact positively anti-science. This topic has come up again in Times Higher Education (24 April 2008). A league table shows that the largest number of anti-science courses is run by the University of Westminster." Includes a link to the league table of anti-science courses in the UK and a critical look at excerpts from the University of Westminster's "Health Sciences: Complementary Therapies BSc Honours" course. DC Science, website of Professor David Colquhoun, Research Professor of Pharmacology, University College London (23rd April 2008)

Alternative therapy degree attack

"UK universities are teaching 'gobbledygook' following the explosion in science degrees in complementary medicine, a leading expert says." BBC News (22nd March 2007)

Cost-Effectiveness of Complementary Therapies in the United Kingdom—A Systematic Review

Conclusions: Prospective, controlled, cost-effectiveness studies of complementary therapies have been carried out in the UK only for spinal manipulation (four studies) and acupuncture (two studies). The limited data available indicate that the use of these therapies usually represents an additional cost to conventional treatment. Peter H. Canter, Joanna Thompson Coon, and Edzard Ernst, Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (December 2006)

The 'Smallwood Report': Method or Madness?

"The 'Smallwood report' is one of the strangest examples of an attempt to review CAM that I have ever seen. One gets the impression that its conclusions were written before the authors had searched for evidence that might match them. Both Mr Smallwood and the 'Freshminds' team told me that they understand neither health care nor CAM. Mr Smallwood stressed that this is positive as it prevents him from being 'accused of bias'. My response was that 'severely flawed research methodology almost inevitably leads to bias'." Edzard Ernst, The British Journal of General Practice (January 2006)

The Smallwood Report on the role of CAM in the NHS

In October 2005 a report was published entitled 'The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the NHS'. It was commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) and produced by the economist Christopher Smallwood with support of a consultancy team from FreshMinds. This link includes commentaries on the report from various UK experts. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (March 2006)

Integrated or evidence-based medicine?

Professor Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP, FRCPEd, argues the case for proven treatments in healthcare. The article is critical of The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health (now known as The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health) and one of its trustees (Michael Dixon, Chairman of the NHS Alliance). Alternative Remedies (October 2005) [pdf]

Rational medicine is being undermined

"Let's be clear, this report contains dangerous nonsense." Letter to The Guardian from Dr Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, criticising the Smallwood Report on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) which was commissioned by HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales. (8th October 2005) [See link below]

The Smallwood Report

Entitled 'The role of complementary and alternative medicine in the NHS', the Smallwood Report was commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) "with the objective of taking a fresh and independent look — within a reasonable timescale — at the contribution which complementary therapies can potentially make to the delivery of healthcare in the UK". The report was led by Christopher Smallwood (an economist) with the support of a consultancy team from FreshMinds. The report's principal recommendation is that NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) should carry out a full assessment of the cost effectiveness of complementary therapies. [194-page PDF download] (Released 6th October 2005)

Prince plots alternative treatments for the NHS

"The Prince of Wales [Prince Charles] has secretly commissioned a report [The Smallwood Report] into the benefits of complementary therapies in an attempt to persuade the Government to offer more of them on the NHS… Its initial findings have been condemned as "outrageous and deeply flawed" by Britain's leading scientific expert in the field, who said it exaggerates merits while "glossing over" problems of safety and effectiveness." Report by Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent, and Andrew Pierce, The Times (24th August 2005)

Integral Risk

"In our rush to integrate alternative medicine with conventional, let's not forget to test what we're integrating… As currently promoted in the UK, [embracing integrated medicine uncritically] could mean the routine adoption of unproven treatments. This is asking for trouble." Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (16th August 2005)

Charles's 'alternative GP' campaign stirs anger

"The information the foundation (The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health) puts out is dangerous and misleading. If it enters the realm of general practice it seems to me more like an attempt to brainwash GPs and patients." Professor Edzard Ernst, The Sunday Times (14th August 2005)

Royal influence on NHS policy?

Is Prince Charles attempting to influence NHS policy on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)? This link provides background information to the questionable Smallwood Report on CAM which is scheduled to be released in October 2005.

Brits Endorse Flakey Reiki

"In what the British press has characterized as a 'ground-breaking' move, the Middlesex Hospital in London has appointed a 'healer' whose salary is paid by the country's National Health Service (NHS)… This is troubling because, by funding this and other healers, the NHS is, in effect, giving British governmental sanction to quackery." Leon Jaroff, TIME (28th March 2005)

Double standards

"The foundation's guide is a disservice to everyone involved, not least the consumer. The problem is not that a lobby group is indulging in promotion: it is that the government is repeatedly supporting a lobby group to do the work of independent experts." A critical response from Professor Edzard Ernst regarding the Complementary Healthcare Guide recently issued by The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health. The Guardian (22nd March 2005) [To view the guide, see link below]

Not so complementary

"The expectation of the NHS to provide CAMs is increasing at a time when demand for all services is at budgetary breaking point." Dion Smyth, lecturer-practitioner in cancer and palliative care, Cancer Nursing Practice (October 2004) [pdf slow download]

NICE alternatives

"The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is the institution that decides which treatments will be paid for by the UK NHS and which will not. The decisions are usually based on systematic reviews of the literature…The latest NICE report, entitled Multiple Sclerosis (MS)…in the section on CAM we find the following remark: "A person with MS who wishes to consider or try an alternative therapy should be recommended to evaluate any alternative therapy themselves, including the risks and the costs (financial and inconvenience)". Does this mean that when our knowledge is incomplete in conventional medicine, institutions bear the responsibility for completing it, while in CAM it is up to the individual patient to do so?" Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] June 2004

If the drugs don't work…

"The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health advocates as its primary aim the adoption of complementary therapies into routine healthcare………But few people question the principle of integration. Should we not first make sure that these therapies are safe and effective? The NHS might end up paying dearly for treatments that are not worth their money. So let's do the science first and the integration next — it's what we call 'evidence-based medicine'". Article by Professor Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (2nd March 2004)

Regulating complementary medicine

"The House of Lords report and the Government's response to it pointed out that the first step was to find out whether the complementary treatment worked (better than a placebo)….The problem is that you cannot regulate properly an area when it is not, in most cases, known whether the product being offered has no effect above that of wishful thinking." David Colquhoun, Research Professor of Pharmacology, University College London in a letter to The Times (14th January 2004)

They promise you health and happiness, but many alternative therapists do not obey even basic safety rules

"A comprehensive study of more than 4,500 therapists offering a range of complementary therapies found a large number not taking medical histories from their patients and failing to stop treatments that don't work. Most did not contact family doctors as a matter of course when treating a patient, while many others did not keep up with the latest developments in their field." Times Online (10th January 2004)

Researching the Alternatives: Digging into the evidence base for unorthodox therapies

"It is dangerous to accept diluted standards of proof for implausible phenomena. The controlled experiment has built the great majority of our scientific knowledge, yet there are eminent people who are advocating that we largely abandon it in favour of special methods for testing ideas which have no scientific basis." By Les Rose, consultant clinical scientist and medical writer. (Article orginally published in Clinical Research Focus) [pdf] (2004)

UK government funds CAM research

This article outlines the recommendations of the 6th Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology (2000) on CAM research, together with the UK government response and contrasts it with the research that has been recently funded. It also contains invited commentaries from John Garrow, Sheila Glenn, Paul Wilson, Jos Kleijnen, John Walton and David Colquhoun. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (December 2003)

Facts needed — not just the feelgood factor

Professor Edzard Ernst's view that the premature integration of complementary medicine, though heavily promoted, is short-sighted and, in the long run, could harm the public. The Daily Telegraph (10th September 2003)