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In self-defence

Professor Edzard Ernst tackles some common misconceptions about his work – including the claim that most of his work draws negative conclusions about complementary medicine

Two accusations about the work of my team I have heard so often that, recently, I decided to test them:

‘They never do any original research’

Our critics claim that we only review other researchers’ data and do not conduct clinical trials or other original research ourselves. Is that true?

Our regularly up-dated ‘in house’ document (available on request) entitled ‘The Evidence So Far’ has a section on ‘effectiveness of complementary therapies in specific conditions’. It contains 207 articles published by my team. Of these, most were systematic reviews. Yet, the section also summarizes 27 clinical trials, one survey and 16 case reports. I think therefore, that the above claim is incorrect. In fact, I wonder, is there a CAM-research group that has published more than 27 clinical trials?

‘They invariably draw negative conclusions’

This claim is even more prevalent. It suggests that we are quackbusters who set out to generate negative results.

I therefore categorized the above-mentioned 207 articles into positive (concluding the evidence is promising, encouraging or positive), negative (concluding the evidence is insufficient, not compelling or negative) and neutral (concluding in neither direction). The results impressed even me: of our 207 publications on the effectiveness of CAM, 109 were positive, 84 neutral and 14 were negative.

Thus the second claim is equally wrong. I will thus call everyone who hence forward makes either of these claims ill informed or maliciously misleading.

Professor Edzard Ernst