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There's no such thing as a 'negative' result

If one conducts research into CAM, sometimes the results will inevitably be less encouraging than its enthusiasts had hoped. Many (by no means all) the findings from my team fail to confirm that this or that treatments works or is devoid of adverse effects. People then speak of “negative” results. But this term puzzles me.

If one conducts research into CAM, sometimes the results will inevitably be less encouraging than its enthusiasts had hoped. Many (by no means all) the findings from my team fail to confirm that this or that treatments works or is devoid of adverse effects. People then speak of "negative" results. But this term puzzles me.

I fail to see much negativity in disclosing that homeopathic medicines or Back flower remedies or other treatments are placebos. I also don't think it is negative to show that chiropractic can cause adverse effects. Such findings enable people to choose other treatments which demonstrably generate more good than harm.

This only helps patients and GPs to make informed choices. Nothing negative in that, I hope you agree!

Such results are only negative for the purveyors of snake oils and bogus therapies. My loyalty, however, is certainly not with them. It has to be with patients. As a medical researcher, I have a responsibility to try improving the healthcare of tomorrow.

This is what medical research should be about, I'm sure. The best way to achieve this aim is to clearly state which treatments are effective, which might work and which are no good.

If we look at it from that angle, "negative" results are clearly not negative at all. All findings that are based on good science and advance our knowledge are positive.

Science, TH Huxley once wrote, is simply common sense at its best – that is rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy of logic.

I am sure he was correct.

Professor Edzard Ernst Recent posts

Percy, Pavlov and placebo in animals 23 March 09
If the evidence supports it, so will I 18 May 09
Herbal 'detox' treatments spread a poisonous message 14 May 09
CAM practitioners share some of the blame for measles epidemic 07 May 09
Homeopaths ride to swine flu rescue 06 May 09
Just because a patient gets better, doesn't mean their treatment worked 28 April 09
Homeopathy for cancer is nothing more than placebo 23 April 09
Do complementary and alternative therapies do more harm than good? 20 April 09
Don't let your practice become an evidence-free zone 15 April 09
Natural doesn't mean safe. And CAM is neither 06 April 09

So-called 'integrated medicine' is disturbing nonsense 30 March 09


Why 'belief' in complementary medicine is misguided 23 March 09

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