What alternative health

practitioners might not tell you

 

ebm-first.com

 

 

 

Ask for evidence

 

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Keep Libel out of Science

 

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"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)

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"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]

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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)

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"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)

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"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)

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"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'.]

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

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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)

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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)

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"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)

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"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]

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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)

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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]

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"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)

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"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)

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"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)

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"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)

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"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]