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Germany is not ‘the promised land’ for CAM

A German team sent questionnaires to 1017 heads of departments in German-speaking medical schools (Germany, Austria and Switzerland)1. They achieved a response rate of 48%. 40% of the responders indicated a positive opinion about complementary medicine.

According to these experts, integration of CAM was, however, a reality in only 34% of all cases. The authors conclude that ‘the majority of respondents favoured the integration of CAM into the medical system’.1

Like so many surveys, this article generated a plethora of data, and it is often difficult which aspect to focus on. The authors of this article chose to concentrate on the positive aspects. Yet one can easily extract findings which are less flattering for CAM. Let me show you a few examples:

· 28% of all answers suggested that CAM was being used as a substitute for placebo therapy – which, arguably, is not ethical.

·  The belief in homeopathy (20%) and Chinese medicine (19%) was lower than for other CAM treatments (osteopathy was highest with 52%).

·   The biggest risks of CAM were perceived to be inadequate quality control (69%), uncritical application (67%) and avoidance of conventional treatments (59%).

·  95% of all respondents considered controlled clinical trials to be the most important tools for evaluating CAM.

German speaking countries are often tainted as ‘the promised land’ for CAM. In particular, commentators on this blog have repeatedly tried to convey such an impression in relation to homeopathy. I grew up there, trained there and even worked in a homeopathic hospital there. So, I knew that the impression was incorrect. But opinion cannot be trusted – now you have the evidence!

Professor Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter



1.  Brinkhaus B, Witt CM, Jena S, Bockelbrink A, Ortiz M, Willich SN. Integration of complementary and alternative medicine into medical schools in Austria, Germany and Switzerland – results of a cross-sectional study. Wien Med Wschr 2011; 161(1): 32-43