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Edzard Ernst attack on NHS Alliance lacking in evidence

Dear Professor Ernst – Being an academic who puts such obvious importance on evidence, it is ironic that your attack on the NHS Alliance via its chair, Dr Michael Dixon, appears strangely lacking in that very quality - evidence. ('Alternative medicine and the NHS Alliance')

Surely you'd agree that assertions and statements that are not evidence-based (or are highly selectively so) form a poor basis for public debate?

To directly address some of your points:

  • You appear confused about the NHS Alliance's mission. We're always happy to clarify any queries about this - though oddly, you made no effort to ask us.
  • I doubt any reasonable person considering our publications could reach the view that the NHS Alliance is 'a lobby group for alternative and complementary medicine', which you assert. You cite press releases referring to complementary medicine in some way - these total around 10 out of 500. At 2% of the total, you are surely not proposing this is a statistically significant proportion?
  • Your reference to GMC requirements (laudable as they are) is simply misplaced regarding the NHS Alliance - a membership body representing a wide range of individuals and organisations. We are not regulated by the GMC, Edzard; neither are you. Nor is Pulse.

The NHS Alliance advocates evidence-informed patient choice in the selection of interventions, including medicines, whether complementary or otherwise. Evidence should include clinical and user experience, as well as reliable trial data.

I was bemused by your letter and wonder what motivated it. It comes across as an unbalanced attempt to garner cheap publicity, based on selective and out-of-date analysis. It's hardly the standard I'd expect from a reputable academic. As a professor of complementary medicine, do you feel this kind of debate advances your field?

It would be a shame if this latest foray of yours were motivated by personal animosity towards an individual who has greater knowledge of frontline, hands-on patient care.

I look forward to your reply, but am sure most readers will reach their own conclusions in the meantime.

From Michael Sobanja, chief executive, NHS Alliance

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