The public's enthusiasm for complementary and alternative medicine amounts to a critique of mainstream medicine
"I have repeatedly argued that the art and science of medicine must not be separated, e.g. both are core values for any good healthcare. Such a separation would mean that patients might receive ineffective treatments plus the benefits of a good therapeutic relationship from CAM practitioners or effective therapies plus inadequate therapeutic relationships from conventional clinicians. This would clearly be wrong; it not only means that healthcare is suboptimal but it also implies that patients are at risk. Good healthcare must incorporate both and the art the science of medicine…Providers of CAM tend to build better therapeutic relationships than mainstream healthcare professionals. In turn, this implies that much of the popularity of CAM is a poignant criticism of the failures of mainstream healthcare. We should consider it seriously with a view of improving our service to patients.” Edzard Ernst, International Journal of Clinical Practice (October 2010) [Subscription only]
“The marketing of so-called CAM or integrative medicine continues. These terms are just that – marketing. They are otherwise vacuous, even deceptive, and meant only to conceal the naked fact that most medical interventions that hide under the CAM/integrative umbrella lack plausibility or credible evidence that they actually work.” Steven Novella MD, Science Based Medicine (9th September 2009)
“The curricula on the integrative medicine sites were strongly biased in favor of CAM, many of the references were to poor-quality clinical trials, and they were five to six years out of date. These "evidence-based CAM" curricula, which are used all over the country, fail to meet the generally accepted standards of evidence-based medicine. By tolerating this situation, health professions schools are not meeting their educational and ethical obligations to learners, patients, or society. Because integrative medicine programs have failed to uphold educational standards, medical and nursing schools need to assume responsibility for their oversight. The authors suggest (1) appointing faculty committees to review the educational materials and therapies provided by integrative medicine programs, (2) holding integrative medicine programs' education about CAM to the same standard of evidence used for conventional treatments, and (3) providing ongoing oversight of integrative medicine education programs.” Academic Medicine (September 2009)
"The biggest problem with so-called complementary and alternative medicine — CAM (a misleading name for it is neither complementary nor a legitimate alternative) is that its proponents overtly seek to create a double standard to medicine…..I think the worst can be avoided, however, if the public is made acutely aware of the true nature of CAM promotion…" Article by Steven Novella, MD (NeuroLogica Blog)
"What is at stake here is our right, I would argue our duty, to speak out against misleading claims and dangerous concepts. We should find ways of protecting ourselves against such enemies of reason." Professor Edzard Ernst in a letter to the British Medical Journal (18th October 2008) [pdf]
E. Ernst, M. H. Cohen and J. Stone (Journal of Medical Ethics)
Professor Edzard Ernst addresses eight common arguments against testing the efficacy of therapeutic approaches in CAM. (Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine)
A website explaining the dangers of uncritical thinking. It summarises and links to hundreds of reports of people who have been killed, injured, or swindled by faulty beliefs. More than 60 topics are covered including acupuncture, applied kinesiology, autism denial, chiropractic, cranio-sacral therapy, detoxification, ear candling, energy medicine, herbal remedies, holistic medicine, homeopathy, iridology, psychic surgery, quackery, vaccine denial, vitamin megadoses, faith healing, and attachment therapy.
"A demonstrably favorable risk-free profile is an essential requirement for CM (Complementary Medicine), as it is for any other form of medicine. Without it, issues like regulation of and training in CM degrade to mere window-dressing exercises." Commentary by Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP (Diabetes Care)
"The need for regulation has the potential for creating a potentially serious conflict. Informing patients about the best scientific evidence will, in some cases, mean telling them about the lack of scientifically proven benefit and the presence of potential risks, yet this would be overtly contrary to the personal (financial) interests, beliefs and emotional attitudes of CAM practitioners." Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT]
Article by Malcolm H. Parker (The Medical Journal of Australia)
Article by the late Barry L. Beyerstein, PhD, formerly Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C., Canada. (Academic Medicine) [NOTE: This article has now become subscription-only, however nearly all of the original text is contained in this archive link to Barry Beyerstein's Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine article entitled 'Social and Judgmental Biases That Make Inert Treatments Seem To Work' .]
Medical quackery can threaten both your health and pocketbook. Learn how to spot it.
Includes criticism of media reports on alternative medicine, and also looks at alternative medicine in relation to Christian religious beliefs. Article by Dónal P. O'Mathúna, PhD, fellow of The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Professor of Bioethics and Chemistry at Mount Carmel College of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Reported uses of complementary and alternative medicine by 38 named celebrities. The therapies include the Atkins diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, gem therapy, dowsing, Ayurveda, reflexology, magnet therapy, the Eskimo diet, healing, breathing therapy, yoga, herbalism, the Alexander technique, Klamath Lake algae, cupping, ginseng, and bioenergy. Edzard Ernst and Max H. Pittler (The Medical Journal of Australia)
Celebrities include Naomi Campbell, Olivia Newton-John, Sarah Harding, Alex Reid, David Beckham, Joanna Lumley, Gisele Bündchen, Jennifer Aniston, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Cheryl Cole, Cliff Richard, and Robert de Niro.
Sense About Science review [pdf]
Warning to patients on cancer therapies — Alternative 'cures' on internet put thousands at risk, says scientist
Alok Jha, Science Correspondent, The Guardian
"…there is no such thing as a placebo responder (someone who always benefits from placebo) and a placebo non-responder (someone who never benefits from it). This unreliability makes it problematic to count on placebo effects in clinical practice." Edzard Ernst (Arthritis Research Campaign feature)
An analysis of what 'proved to work' means. Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP, FRCPEd, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT]
"The terms efficacy and effectiveness are frequently used in the medical literature. Seemingly similar in meaning, they express distinctly different concepts." Max H. Pittler and Adrian R. White, Associate Editors and Research Fellows, University of Exeter, UK, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT]
"Claims that conventional medicine is not widely based on evidence should be rejected, as should logically fallacious arguments based on such claims. The evidence fails to support them." R. Imrie and D. W. Ramey, Complementary Therapies in Medicine [Reprinted by Veterinarywatch.]
"The assumption we should really mistrust is that satisfaction with CAM services is the same as a demonstration of efficacy….. The danger of integrative medicine lies in creating a smoke-screen behind which dubious practices are pushed into routine healthcare." Edzard Ernst, Md, PhD, FRCP, (The Journal of Family Medicine) [pdf]
Commentary by Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP, (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
"If the term [integrated medicine] truly means the integration in routine healthcare of those CAM interventions that are proven by the accepted standards of medicine, it becomes redundant because it is synonymous with EBM." Professor Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (June 2008)
Arguably the 'holistic approach' is fragmented and the 'conventional approach' can prove to be more holistic than the naïve holism displayed by some complementary practitioners." Edzard Ernst, (British Journal of General Practice)
"The holistic approach of alternative medicine is nothing more than an excuse to avoid medical diagnosis. Alternative practitioners remove this burden by assigning the cause of disease to the realm of spirituality: the one aspect of the mind-spirit-body model that has no evidence to support it." (UK Skeptics)
"To my mind, there is no question: holism has always been at the heart of any type of good medicine, and only suboptimal healthcare is not holistic. To claim otherwise could even be offensive to many conventional practitioners." Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Medicine [FACT]
Article by the late Barry L. Beyerstein, PhD, formerly Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C., Canada [pdf]
Article by Victor J. Stenger, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado, USA [pdf]
Contends that the Absurd in medicine has been aided and legitimised through economic, social, and political currents: "Postmodernism has promoted breakdown and reorientation of structured forms of thought. One of its guises is language distortion — the redefinition and use of words to fit personal views. For example, alternative and complementary have been substituted for quackery, dubious and implausible. Another is the invention of integrative medicine — designed to leapfrog methods into practice without need for proof." Wallace Sampson and Kimball Atwood IV (Medical Journal of Australia)
Video clip of Simon Singh discussing alternative medicine. (8mins 19secs)
"Research into complementary medicines relies on donations from enlightened philanthropists. Let's hope we can attract more of them." Edzard Ernst (The Guardian)
Truth, falsehood and evidence: investigations of dubious and dishonest science including complementary and alternative medicine. Website of Professor David Colquhoun, Research Professor of Pharmacology, University College London.
Experiments and thoughts on quackery, health beliefs and pseudoscience. Also provides help in judging whether information sources are trustworthy by counting words in web pages that quacks tend to use. The more such words, the more quackery is suspected.