Edzard Ernst, the Quack Professor, retires defeated!

“Has Ernst been beating around the bush in his previous assessments of alternative therapies then? Outspoken, eh? Yeah, you do that, Ernst. You become “really outspoken”. I’ve been saying you were a wolf in sheep’s clothing for years. Here’s the rope: you hang yourself, pal. The fact is you were never bright enough to quit while you were ahead, and now the only people who have any time for you at all are the other mindless zealots who don’t know anything about CAM therapies anyway, and that’s why you really lost your job – it has nothing to do with Prince Charles…”

by Chris Holmes

In a fawning interview extract from Zeno’s blog, the Professor Against Complementary Medicine announces his academic demise and threatens to become “really outspoken” against CAM therapies! HA HA HA HA HA!

What really makes me laugh about this latest evidence of his total loss of credibility – as well as his job, which he should never have had in the first place – is this astounding statement:

“The trouble is that it is relatively easy to get research funds if you have the reputation of being “sympathetic” to CM. If you are critical, it is much harder.”

Hmm! Is it really “relatively easy” to get research funds if you are going to be ‘soft’ on Complementary Medicine? Who FROM? Who are all these kind donors who are lining up to give universities funding for research into CM, but unfortunately for Ernst stipulate that he mustn’t be too critical? Can you NAME ANY, Prof.?

Or perhaps he was unconsciously referring to the £2 million he secured from Maurice Laing by pretending he was going to be fair and even-handed about CM? He claimed he wasn’t going to be “critical” or pro-CAM when he started out, but open-minded. After a while it became apparent that he was actually an anti-CAM zealot, and now nobody really wants to fund that project because anti-CAM zealots are really in quite a small minority. Nobody, that is, except perhaps drug companies but of course if they’ve ever provided any funding to Ernst’s project in the past they would have taken careful steps to make sure no-one noticed, and they wouldn’t want to fund it now because Ernst got a bit carried away and no longer has the sort of credibility he enjoyed for a while.

Has Ernst been beating around the bush in his previous assessments of alternative therapies then? Outspoken, eh? Yeah, you do that, Ernst. You become “really outspoken”. I’ve been saying you were a wolf in sheep’s clothing for years. Here’s the rope: you hang yourself, pal. The fact is you were never bright enough to quit while you were ahead, and now the only people who have any time for you at all are the other mindless zealots who don’t know anything about CAM therapies anyway, and that’s why you really lost your job – it has nothing to do with Prince Charles. Academics in the U.K. are not there by Royal Appointment, are they? And the Royal Family don’t have the power or influence to remove any of them either – what planet are you on? Nobody wanted to fund your little misinformation game any longer, and your University got sick of your unacademic, self-publicising media antics, as they were bound to in the end.

Go to America, where I’m sure there’ll be a cushy job for you. Take the PharmaDollar, and stop posing as an objective scientist!  You’re a joke.

the book that blew the whistle on the nicotine scam

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Central Hypnotherapy

*Update, 4/8/11:  I couldn’t help laughing when I noticed that one of my centhyp tweets had been re-tweeted on 18th April by… none other than Edzard Ernst!  Since I have been very critical of him, he threatened to sue me and he was rather rude to me on skepticat’s blog, I was surprised he had done this… until I realised that he had not even bothered to check the link he re-tweeted.  If he had, he would have realised that it just led to a publishing website that sells my book!  So why did he re-tweet it?  Because before the link, I had written: “Why doctors don’t provide hypnotherapy”, which happens to be the title of one of the chapters.  Ernst must have glanced at that, assumed it was some anti-CAM argument and re-tweeted it as a knee-jerk decision based on his own over-zealous anti-CAM agenda… but without even bothering to check what it actually was!  VERY scientific, Eddie-boy!  Perhaps that says a lot about the way you’ve been conducting your “research” all along, eh?

By the way, if anyone doubts that anti-CAM zealots are in a pretty small minority, I think it’s very telling that one of their most celebrated and widely-published champions, Edzard Ernst, still only has 3166 followers on Twitter after 17 years of constant CAM-bashing!

50 thoughts on “Edzard Ernst, the Quack Professor, retires defeated!”

  1. Wooo-hooo! That’s not very impressive for a guy who’s had so many unnecessary column-inches devoted to his personal crusade against complementary medicine.

    Let’s face it, Ernst’s day is done. Don’t think I’ll bother searching anywhere for “anarchic teapot”, chocolate teapot or retired pharma-lackey. Cynics are extremely boring, sad, disappointed people in a tiny, tiny minority, which is why Ernst can’t get funding despite being “really, really famous for nearly getting sacked by Prince Charles”. No he’s not. Really famous, I mean.

    Actually he is facing redundancy because no-one cares enough about his relentless CAM-bashing exercise to pay for it to continue. After all, there’s only so many times you can say: “There’s no evidence it works, and it may even be dangerous” – which is what he says about virtually every therapy that isn’t manufactured by a global drug giant. Oh, don’t go, Eddie! 17 years of that just isn’t enough! More (highly selective) reviews are needed! And you’re still so open-minded, still sitting on the fence. Please, tell us what you really think of non-drug treatments “Professor”!

  2. I’m not describing myself as “really, really famous” on Twitter – and now, I notice, neither is Eddie. But he did, which I reckon was wishful thinking.

    Look, Narky: I know you’re a fan of Mr Ernst, but you just have to accept – as Ernst does, to be fair – that when someone chooses to be as combative, outspoken, controversial and downright cheeky as The Quack Professor chose to be, they may attract some fans but they will also get some comeback. Grow up.

  3. I guess Chris is too busy helping people overcome their nicotine addiction and trying new theories on the subject to scour the net for CAM and twitter silly messages all day long.

    He is actually doing something positive with his time and trying to push the boundaries of our thinking instead of putting out negative statements and scaremongering people.

    I think so called “skeptics” have slightly lost the plot. EBM is obviously not working for them or they lost their faith in it, hence their interest in CAM or they would be practicing what they preach but their brain washing that “only double blind placebo trials work or we will be laughed at” syndrome is getting in the way of having an open mind and seeing the positive aspects of CAM which millions of people use with good effect. Sour grapes indeed!

    Ernst retired because he did not fulfill his job description of finding out why alternative therapies work and now nobody is taking any notice of him because he is a relic of the past way of thinking and evaluating which is out of date.

    The future is medicine along with CAM which many open minded medics are trialing successfully.

    Resistance is futile…

  4. “I guess Chris is too busy helping people overcome their nicotine addiction and trying new theories on the subject to scour the net for CAM and twitter silly messages all day long.”

    Really? Then why did he bring the subject up in the first place, dear boy?

    My diagnosis remains: sour grapes.

  5. I notice your “diagnosis” does not engage with ANY of the points I made about Ernst.

    If the problem is “a lack of funding”, how come Ernst’s unit is to continue, and he is staying on in a part-time capacity until a new Professor is appointed? Isn’t that futile, if no-one will fund it? Or is the problem just that no-one will fund it if HE is in charge? That would mean that there are potential supporters with faith in the project, but not in Ernst! Telling, that.

    Also – since you’re a twitter-mate of his – ask him who all these would-be donors are who would be “relatively easy” to get money out of, if only he was going to be soft on CAM? He is indirectly accusing these people of being willing to fund only ‘misleading’ CAM studies. Who are they? Not CAM practitioners, we have no means to fund research! It’s expensive! So who the hell is he talking about? Ernst plucks statements like that out of the air without pointing to any evidence – it’s hearsay!

    Ernst himself has evidently become the problem with the project, and it is really because he has revealed himself as rabidly anti-CAM and very provocative about it, and so most people don’t believe in his objectivity any more, except of course all the other anti-CAM cynics like yourself, who number only about three thousand amongst the twitterati!


  6. Supporters of EE still follow an antiquated Descartian dichotomy that mind and body are separate entities.

    Well, the latest mind body research is coming up with the idea that our sense of self, a key aspect of consciousness, is created by both our bodies and our brains which CAM has been tapping into for ages.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that tuning in to body’s signals can be exploited to improve creativity, memory and self control. Mind body connection and embodiment is central to our consciousness, yet until recently we knew little about it.

    Among the many exciting applications of mind-body research are clinical and educational ones which many scientists are looking into.

    We have new machines, new ways of thinking and evaluating and exciting times ahead harnessing the “power of the mind”.

    So called “skeptics” who call mind medicine “quackery” or “sham medicine” risk being marginalised, blaming their misfortunes on others.

  7. They are already marginalised by their negativity, which I have noticed only a tiny minority of human beings share. I call them Pseudo-Scientific Scoffers, and they are really about 90% journalist, 10% scientist – not really the brightest of their generation, but very ambitious. The exciting side of science is the positive exploration and pioneering spirit that characterised its early development, and still characterises much of it but then there are these completely unimaginative, negative dolts who seem to think that anything they cannot do themselves CANNOT BE DONE, which they then seek to prove by failing to do it themselves – exactly what they set out to do.

    Then they pompously announce that the people who can do it must be liars, frauds or deluded fools, because “we tried that and it doesn’t work”.

    The arrogant assertion that ‘a scientist’ is always best placed to evaluate the truth of what is possible or not, just because they are a scientist, is elitist, blinkered clap-trap. Presumably EE could learn what all the controls of a stunt plane do, but could he execute a dazzling display of aerobatics? No. Could a newly qualified, inexperienced pilot do that? No. EE’s methodology would then conclude that no-one could, because he and a few other numpty scientists had all had a go, and they all agree it can’t be done.

    An expert pilot can do it, of course – may even make it look easy. EE has never been an expert practitioner of any CAM therapy, although he claims he did a bit of homeopathy. He’s just like all the other scientists who have done trials on CAM therapies: a dabbler.

    As a way of exploring the possibilities of hypnotherapy, that’s like trying to assess the usefulness of a new and complex surgical procedure by asking ME to have a go at it!

  8. Hi Chris

    “EE has never been an expert practitioner of any CAM therapy, although he claims he did a bit of homeopathy. He’s just like all the other scientists who have done trials on CAM therapies: a dabbler.”

    I think we may have discussed the relevance of Ernst’s clinical past to his investigation and criticism of CAM before (but I can’t find it)? Interestingly though, I note you’re very critical of nicotine replacment therapies (NRTs) on scientific grounds; but by your reasoning, shouldn’t we expect you to be some sort of pharmacologist or have a NRT prescribing past before we listen to you on this?



  9. Hardly necessary when I’m quoting info from the government’s own research, supplied to us (eventually, and after a great deal of messing us about!) by the Department of Health. So unlike Ernst, I did NOT produce or publish the research.

    I am qualified to read, Adam! And I’m not calling myself a Professor of Pharmacology. If I did, and I was being quoted in the press as if I were the world’s greatest expert on Pharmacology, then damn right you would be, sir.

    Our earlier exchanges got a bit long-winded in the end, so I took them off the site. I do occasionally do that if the discussions go on a bit, it’s no reflection on ther content. I just don’t want to bore other readers.

    I’d be interested to know where you’re coming from on all this: are you from a medical or scientific background, or involved in smoking cessation in any way? Do you have any connection to Ernst’s work? Just curious.

  10. Thanks for that Chris.

    You’re right, you didn’t produce the research on NRTs, but by your reasoning (if I’ve got this right), would you expect the researchers to be or have been NRT prescribers? I just want to be clear that I’ve got you right on this one – i.e. that only therapists in the field can research the field, as only they can appreciate the nuances of the field that external researchers might miss?

    In terms of where I’m coming from, I am a health professional as it goes, but not really involved in smoking cessation or CAM (although I can think of a few occasions where they’ve cropped up). I also have no connection to Ernst, other than I like to be evidence-based in work and life as much as possible, and find his and others’ work compelling. I guess I’ve also been quite moved by the content and style of your criticisms, hence our conversations then and now.

    As for deleting posts, I guess it’s your blog, but I assume readers can decide for themselves what’s interesting and what’s not?



  11. I go on too much. It’s a habit I’m trying to correct, by writing short articles. You were doing it too, in our previous exchanges, but you seem to have overcome that tendency if these posts are anything to go by! If we can control our verbose tendencies I won’t worry about boring people and these posts can stay.

    My point was that anyone can hand out pills or patches but only experienced therapists can DO therapy effectively. I did not say that only therapists can analyse the results, but with some therapies I can think of it would be a good idea if therapists were involved in the design of the trials, otherwise crass errors can be made that professionals wouldn’t make.

    I would be more than happy for scientists – or anyone else – to assess the results of the work I do objectively. That is not what Ernst does. He has never done that. People like me are never involved in, or consulted about the “clinical trials” that purport to assess alternative therapies. And have you ever wondered who pays for them? Trials like that are expensive. Who is motivated to invest large amounts of money into Ernst’s project, or the studies he “analyses”? I don’t believe the Laing tale, but in any case, who ELSE has funded it? And why? It ain’t any of us, so who is it? What’s their agenda? And why do they never want any of us involved in the project?

  12. Thanks Chris.

    This idea that “…anyone can hand out pills or patches but only experienced therapists can DO therapy effectively” isn’t controversial. Well designed clinical trials are all about finding out how much of a treatment effect is the pill/patch, and how much is other factors (e.g. therapist effect). If RCTs consistently show no statistically-significant difference between control and treatment group outcomes, then it becomes safe and reasonable to assume that reported positive-effects (which are entitled to be significant) aren’t medicinal. If the methodology is sound, then it makes no difference to outcomes what the researchers’ professional backgrounds are.

    As for scientists investigating the work you do, I can think of a few ways this might be done, but the results would show little more than how effective Chris’s brand of smoking cessation therapy is, when administered by Chris. That’s not to suggest it’s an entirely wasteful exercise – if the results were significant, then it’d be interesting to see how your therapy could be standardised and re-tested – but the generalisability from testing one individual would be limited.

    Without checking, I have no idea whether Ernst has ‘never’ collaborated with alternative therapists – though am aware of collaborators who have been trained (in what?) at respectable sounding CAM institutions – but I’m afraid you lose me when you slide into conspiracy theory. If you’ve got any evidence that Big Pharma sponsorship has corrupted his objectivity, then I’d be fascinated to hear it (I can’t think what else you’re implying here). What also should we make of his 20’ish studies that show certain CAM to perform better than placebo? Should we steer people away from these results, and question again his credentials; or assume, on these occasions, he’s taken bungs from the CAM industry? Just all sounds a bit unfalsifiable to me…



  13. If Ernst reported that the number of trials showing effectiveness of CAM therapies was zero, that would certainly call his methods into question in anyone’s mind. Like the Laing story, this minor detail is a way of appearing bona fide without altering the overall impression that CAM is largely useless.

    In truth, the vast majority of Ernst’s “research” is only mata-analyses of earlier studies. It’s a publishing exercise, and surely at this point no-one is seriously regarding Ernst as an objective figure in relation to CAM, when he’s demanding Boots shouldn’t sell homeopathic remedies and blaming CAM for the death of Steve Jobs!

    He has lost his position, funding and credibility because he went too far with his media antics, and all truly objective minds will have noticed by now that he’s a zealot, a psuedo-scientific scoffer like Simon Singh, Goldacre et al. I think these people are in a very small minority and although we need figures like this, just as we need to be able to hear every kind of extreme view in order to form our own opinions about it, the public soon get sick of hearing the broken record: “There’s no evidence it works, and it may even be dangerous”!

    The public use CAM therapies. They can judge for themselves.

    I simply asked the question “Who was funding it?” A valid question, and a very relevant one. And if the project is to continue (as has been suggested) without Ernst at the helm, who will be funding that, and why would they do that? After 17 years of “There’s no evidence it works, and it might even be dangerous” surely we can only interpret that one way or the other, and either way there seems no point in continuing. Either CAM hardly ever works, which the public evidently do not find in their own experience – or this has always been a CAM-bashing exercise dressed up as scientific enquiry, which might be why Ernst is losing influence with the public as everyone with an open mind naturally comes to that conclusion. “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

    I’ve said before, he went too far. He should have quit while he was ahead. My prediction is that the unit will close anyway before long. It has simply lost credibility generally, as have the cynics themselves. They only agree with each other – everyone else is just bored with the patronising smugness and the negativity, and the fact that what they’re saying doesn’t chime with their own experience.

    Ernst now states that he is going to be much more outspoken on the subject of CAM in the future, as if his Professorship ‘held him back’ in some way from expressing his true opinions! If that is the case, he was clearly pretending to be more objective than he really is (a no-brainer to anyone in the CAM field). The first inkling of what this might mean was his announcement to the Australian media that the world has homeopathy to thank for the death of Steve Jobs. What next, Ernst? How are you going to top that one?

  14. Okay Chris.

    I’m not sure why the bulk of his work is ‘only’ meta-analyses? Meta-analyses and/or systematic reviews provide a valuable over-arching picture of the evidence as a whole. In effect, a series of studies on tens or hundreds of people, can become a single study on thousands. It was meta-analysis that exposed the biased publishing of Big Pharma on SSRIs, showing them to probably be little more than an elaborate placebo. This is skilled and valuable scientific work.

    Like I say, your views seem unfalsifiable. If Ernst is a unobjective zealot when he publishes negative results, and also when he publishes positive results, how can you be proved wrong (is this a case of heads I win, tails you lose)? What would it take for you to doubt the efficacy of CAM? How would you design a trial of homeopathy (for instance)? How do you know what the public thinks, and how do we know they’re right (Dr Trossel had anecdotal evidence for his expensive bovine stem cell treatments for MS)? Where do you stand then on lucrative SSRI anti-depressant treatments (the public and the evidence-base seem to disagree here too)?



  15. Actually Chris, I think I know where you stand on the anti-depressant myth, as I notice you’ve used the 2008 headlines in your anti-pharma ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ column. You do know that the lead researcher on these studies is an academic psychologist who’s probably never prescribed/administered an anti-depressant in his life? How can you be sure that he hasn’t made “crass errors” that psychiatric prescribers wouldn’t make? Why isn’t Kirsch a ‘zealot’? With SSRI prescribing rising year on year, why shouldn’t we trust patients that it’s the SSRI keeping their depression from getting worse, when the results don’t “chime with their own experience”. Why do you trust the scientific method here but not elsewhere? Sorry to bombard you with so many questions, but I find it fascinating that you’re willing to nod through (in my opinion) good science when it conforms with your beliefs, but reject it (and cite conspiracy) when it doesn’t.


  16. “ALTERNATIVE medicine is unethical, criminal and likely contributed to the death of Apple boss Steve Jobs, visiting professor Edzard Ernst says.”

    “They should be tested in exactly the same way which we test any other treatment,” he said. “There’s only one science and there is no alternative to science.” (news.com.au)

    The suggestion here is that the current system for testing pharmaceutical drugs is scientific and sound, which is hogwash. Ben Goldacre raised concerns about making this sort of criticism of alternative medicine when there is no case for claiming that the current approval system is truly “scientific” – only to be slapped down by some goon from the MHRA falsely suggesting that there used to be a problem but it’s all sorted out now.

    I have not used the word “conspiracy”. You keep using it. Your attempts to paint me as a conspiracy theorist are not appreciated, I am serious in my criticism of the corruption in the drug approvals system, which leads to many deaths and hospitalisations year on year – does homeopathy? No. That fact does not make it an effective treatment, and I don’t know if it is, but Ernst’s suggestion that drugs are “properly” tested to establish safety and efficacy is simply untrue.

    If people go to their doctor because they are feeling down or struggling to cope, they will probably be prescribed an SSRI. They won’t have to pay very much for it and some won’t have to pay for it at all. The taxpayer pays. If they had to go to a private practitioner and pay full whack, I very much doubt they would do that. It’s their doctor they trust, not the drug. The suggestion that this “keeps the depression from getting worse” is only a suggestion – you could equally suggest it is making no difference at all.

    SSRI prescribing rising year on year is in line with ALL drug prescribing rising year on year. It’s overprescribing, and it is doctors doing that. There’s no scientific basis for it whatsoever.

    Personally, I doubt the efficacy of all sorts of things, but I wouldn’t assume I’m right just because Ernst says so. I don’t have some blind, unshakeable faith in every aspect of the alternative field, I just have zero faith in Ernst. You are assuming he has been conducting his meta-analyses in an objective manner simply to establish “facts”. I would have no objection to an exercise like that, and apparently neither would Ernst’s university, but they think it would be better if someone else did it. Me too. Do you think a public statement such as: “alternative medicine is unethical and criminal” might have something to do with their feelings on this? Might call his objectivity into question perhaps?

    Not with Ernst fans, obviously – but there aren’t too many of those these days.

    I wouldn’t design a trial on homeopathy, chiropractic or anything else I know nothing about. I’m a hypnotherapist.

    Finally: “good” science, “bad” science, and Ernst’s silly statement “There’s only one science” – HA! Science isn’t a method in itself! That is why designing trials takes intelligence and insight. Scientists are forever disputing each others methods and conclusions, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. Opinion becomes involved, prejudices, rivalries, commercial competition, envy, anger, professional jealousy and yes, even zealotry. These are HUMAN ENDEAVOURS, so all these factors naturally come into play.

    To suggest that “Science” is some pure element that rises above all that and therefore is synonymous with “Truth” is an ideal which sadly has little basis in reality in the modern world. That doesn’t make it worthless, but to suggest that the patient’s opinion is worthless in comparison is dogmatic and condescending.

  17. Thanks for this Chris.

    “ALTERNATIVE medicine is unethical, criminal and likely contributed to the death of Apple boss Steve Jobs, visiting professor Edzard Ernst says.”

    If these words and emphases were really Ernst’s, then I don’t agree with him. Substitute ‘ALTERNATIVE’ for ‘unevidence-based’, then we’re closer. As for the Jobs factor, as far as I’m aware, Jobs himself was very critical of his healthcare decisions early on in his diagnosis. (Why wouldn’t delaying treatment in preference of sugar tablets be relevant to prognosis?).

    It’s my view that the current MHRA approval system (for conventional medicine) is rigorous – much more rigorous than for CAM, where no evidence of efficacy is required for ‘traditional’ medicines – but it’s far from perfect. However, the imperfection of the current approval system, doesn’t undermine the scientific method, it just makes a stronger case. I know (‘scientific scoffer’) Goldacre’s been very critical of the lack of Big Pharma research regulation, in that we’re (probably) almost always working from a skewed evidence-base, where negative trials rarely appear in the data. You’re absolutely right, science is a human endeavour, this is why it strives so hard to eliminate these factors from its tests.

    “If people go to their doctor because they are feeling down or struggling to cope, they will probably be prescribed an SSRI. […] The suggestion that this “keeps the depression from getting worse” is only a suggestion – you could equally suggest it is making no difference at all.”

    I’m with you here, in fact I’m willing to bet that in the vast majority of cases the treatment is just some sort of elaborate placebo, if that. But this is because I’ve been persuaded by the evidence – of a non-prescribing scientist who has been a vocal and controversial critic of psychopharmacy for some years incidently – that also went against my personal experience. So to borrow from your language: “Either [SSRIs] hardly ever work, which the public evidently do not find in their own experience – or this has always been a [psychiatry]-bashing exercise dressed up as scientific enquiry.”

    From what I can make out, you’re claiming Ernst is either making his data lie, or lying about his data; and have raised no specific methodological concerns. You’ve also speculated that the deception is sponsored by powers that might stand to benefit from CAM’s demise. You’ve also implied that when Ernst publishes against CAM he’s being deceptive, and when he publishes in its favour, he’s being deceptive. As far as I’m aware, you given no evidence that this is the case. What is this, if not a conspiracy theory; and why wouldn’t you appreciate this being pointed out (and why would this mean you’re not ‘serious’?)

    Sorry for going on, it’s just I’m struggling to pin down exactly what you think, as you seem to be contradicting yourself depending on which side of the coin you’re attacking/defending.



  18. “Evidence-based” would be great if it meant what it implies. It’s an anti-CAM mantra: Champix apparently still officially qualifies as “evidence-based” even though it emerged that hundreds of bad reactions, including suicides were ‘missed’ in a crucial FDA safety review because Pfizer submitted them “through the wrong channels”. I cannot produce “evidence” that they did that on purpose, but they have been previously fined record amounts by the US Supreme Court for including misleading information on medication labelling.

    When that fact about the FDA safety review emerged, the French government withdrew public funding for Champix, citing safety concerns. The FDA did NOTHING. Neither did the MHRA, or any other medical body. Once a drug gets through the testing system and gets the big fat rubber stamp of approval, no matter how much deception is involved in that by running short trials, stopping them early, excluding anyone who might possible cause a problem or just hiding data from the authorities, it won’t get withdrawn no matter how many people it kills.

    “However, the imperfection of the current approval system, doesn’t undermine the scientific method, it just makes a stronger case…”

    A case that is ignored because the drug companies runs all the trials nowadays, which did not used to be the case (See Trust Me, I’m a Doctor).

    “You’re absolutely right, science is a human endeavour, this is why it strives so hard to eliminate these factors from its tests.”

    IT? There is no IT! Science isn’t an independent institution where drugs go to be assessed, waved off by their manufacturer with a tear in their eye, keeping their fingers crossed, hoping for the best for their innocent little pill. They OWN “science”. They do it all in-house, and the sole aim is to get a licence by hook or by crook, and if you honestly don’t know that, Adam, or don’t want to believe it, this conversation is pointless.

    Ernst publishes what he chooses to publish, selecting data from a resource base of many, many trials. The words from his own mouth call his objectivity seriously into doubt.

    Pharmaceutical companies run many, many trials but they don’t publish them all. Some they do not tell the FDA about (or whatever approval body, it’s the same the world over, this is a global business) because if they told the whole truth they would not get approval, either because it doesn’t work or because it isn’t safe. When they get caught out, no-one is prosecuted for the fraud even though it may (and does) result in deaths, and the drug isn’t even withdrawn despite the fact it gained approval fraudulently.

    Name any other legal industry where that kind of impunity is the norm.

    Those products are blithely referred to as “evidence-based”. Goldacre quite seriously suggested that the medical profession should get its own house in order if it is going to criticise any other industry for not being soundly “evidence-based”. He was simply right: and far more honest about it than Ernst, who just ignores the fact that it isn’t, by dumbly suggesting that because it is “scientific” (supposedly – it isn’t really) it is therefore “true”. But then Ben Goldacre was trying to be rigorous but fair, whereas Ernst is simply attacking CAM in the media, he’s not interested in being fair.

    Can I show evidence of what Ernst was up to by pointing to the data he chose NOT to publish? Of course I can’t, and also, I have no idea what the actual efficacy of homeopathy or chiropractic actually is. I only know how wrong his conclusion was about hypnotherapy not being effective for smoking cessation. I don’t know how he arrived at that conclusion but “science” went badly wrong somewhere on that one!

    How people interpret the significance or otherwise of Ernst’s project will depend upon whether they think he was setting out to be objective – as the official backstory goes – only to be persuaded by the evidence that he was wrong to dabble in such occult practices in the first place, or whether they think they smell a rat.

    If Ernst always was – as I believe – a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then it is hardly surprising that the real CAM practitioners were the first to spot it. And it’s not surprising that people who gave him awards because he was apparently confirming their prejudices don’t want to believe it – but the statements he’s coming out with now reveal his true agenda and extreme views.

    By the way, you ignored my point about SSRIs: just because thousands of doctors chose to PUT millions of patients on those drugs does NOT mean they are POPULAR WITH THE PUBLIC! It was the doctors’ decision, not the patients’.

  19. Thanks again Chris.

    “By the way, you ignored my point about SSRIs: just because thousands of doctors chose to PUT millions of patients on those drugs does NOT mean they are POPULAR WITH THE PUBLIC! It was the doctors’ decision, not the patients’.”

    So with conventional medicine, the public are passive recipients of doctors’ treatment decisions, but “…the public use CAM therapies [and] can judge for themselves.” What I hear from the medical profession is that many patients, more than ever, are walking into their surgeries and asking for their distress to be medicated. Not all ‘anti-depressant’ takers have been duped or misadvised by their clinicians, and some are medicated against their clinicians’ better advice. I see this predominately as Big Pharma and biopsychiatry’s winning efforts to market the biochemical model of distress; and aren’t sure why you’re still lecturing me on the catastrophic shortfalls of pharmaceutical ethics and regulation? Is it a reflex that to be anti-CAM I must be pro-Big Pharma? By being pro-evidence-based medicine, I’m entitled to get as shirty as you about the smoke-and-mirrors of the multi-nationals – where evidence of wrong doing is a plenty – but I don’t have any sensitivities that stop me extending this indignation towards the multi-billion dollar CAM market either.

    “IT? There is no IT! ”

    Science, in the context I was referring to it, is an ‘it’. ‘It’ describes a set of methods and principles for testing hypotheses and understanding reality. You said yourself, ‘it’s’ all done in house? Again, I’m not sure what you meant by this sophistry? As for the ‘in-house’ allegation, most drug-research probably is conducted by the industry, but if all, how do you know about the anti-depressant myth? This arose from a scientific study? Which drug company conducted that?

    “Ernst publishes what he chooses to publish, selecting data from a resource base of many, many trials.”

    That’s how you do a meta-analysis. His inclusion criteria should be clear in his methodology. What are your specific methodological concerns?

    “I only know how wrong his conclusion was about hypnotherapy not being effective for smoking cessation. I don’t know how he arrived at that conclusion but “science” went badly wrong somewhere on that one!”

    Which is exactly what biochemically-minded clinicians say about Kirsch et al’s meta-analysis of SSRIs. Of course if you already know something works, then there’s no need for scientific investigation: positive results confirm your experience, negative results are wrong. Have you declared your methodological concerns; or is this more an allegation of scientific fraud? Regardless, I don’t see why your indignation over Ernst’s hypnosis findings should extend so deeply to everything else he says and does (especially when you yourself admit you “have no idea what the actual efficacy of homeopathy or chiropractic actually is”).



  20. I don’t speak “for” CAM, but I am taking up an anti-Ernst position, calling into question his supposed (and very much cited, yawn) originally “pro-CAM” position and his objectivity. I am also very curious as to how he met Laing in the first place and who was the prime mover converting Laing’s personal interest in CAM therapies into the idea of an academic chair. Laing was an industrialist, no obvious connections to the academic world. Ernst was an academic, but in a different country and supposedly only came on to the scene when he applied for the post AFTER it had been created.

    There seems to be a missing link in this tale. Unless Laing dreamed up the idea for the Laing chair all by himself, and started touting it around universities alone, all of whom Ernst later said turned it down: “It was hotter than cigarette money”, he said, even though the money actually came from construction wealth (hardly controversial)… then someone else was involved who isn’t mentioned in the credits whenever this tale is told. The birth of the Laing Chair story – kind of an immaculate conception, seems to me – is always told as an Ernst/Laing collaboration entirely, yet I don’t see how Ernst could have been involved in setting up a post for which he later successfully applied himself.

    So who set up the Laing Chair really? Who introduced Laing to the world of academia and eventually helped him to persuade a university to create the post? Perhaps the universities that turned it down could tell us more, and perhaps why they didn’t want to be associated with it?

    Moving on: “…some [patients] are medicated against their clinicians advice.” Really? The patient has no medical knowledge, the doctor is supposedly the expert – so his/her advice is sometimes given and then he/she prescribes AGAINST IT? Why? Just because they WANT IT? What happened to the “evidence-based” rule?

    If a client comes to me asking if I will do past-life regression with them, I explain carefully why I do not offer that, and I send them and their money on their way. I don’t care if they are disappointed. I don’t care WHAT THEY WANT, because what they want is based upon a misunderstanding. Mine is the expert opinion there, and in my professional judgement, my role is to deal with their issues in THIS life. In regression there is no way to tell whether what comes up is memory or imagination, so we shouldn’t proceed as if it were memory.

    Clients have to pay for private therapy. It’s not cheap. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t come back, or hardly any of them would. Despite Ernst’s best efforts over the last 17 years, we read that 25% of the public use CAM therapies.

    I’m not indignant about Ernst’s clanger about hypnotherapy and smoking. I just said he was wrong. I’m indignant about some of his statements in the press like “Alternative medicine is unethical and criminal…” How dare he talk about us in that way! It isn’t US that’s killing and hospitalising thousands of people every year, it’s your so-called “evidence-based” medications!

    Science, as an ideal, is an it. I have the same attitude to that ideal as you do. Science in reality is a research post at Pfizer, for as long as Pfizer chooses to pay you, which will be for as long as you please Pfizer. “It is all done in- house”: the “it” doesn’t refer to Science as you were referring to it. It refers to drug trials, some of which might be selected for publication if they look more promising than the rest, and some of the “evidence” will be buried because “it’s the wrong kind of evidence”. VERY scientific!

  21. re:
    “why you’re still lecturing me on the catastrophic shortfalls of pharmaceutical ethics and regulation? Is it a reflex that to be anti-CAM I must be pro-Big Pharma?”

    Sorry, fair point. But you have me at something of a disadvantage when you know exactly who I am, what I do and what my professional and personal interest in these matters is.

    All you will tell me is that you are “a health professional”, which is a little coy.

    There are lots of things in the wide, wide world of CAM that I wouldn’t use, or have any faith in. But that’s because of my immediate assumptions about them, those judgements aren’t based on experience or any real knowledge whatsoever. I also know a few hypnotherapists I have little faith in, but that tells you nothing about hypnotherapy itself, only their personal shortcomings. Same with lousy surgeons. Most aren’t.

  22. Okay.

    I’ll be honest, I’m not too interested in the Lang-Ernst connection. Presumably Laing was a wealthy philanthropist who was a believer in science and CAM. I can only assume he thought the science would report more in CAM’s favour, but hasn’t. Or in Ernst’s words (from the Nightingale Foundation): “Sir Maurice Laing was a good and clever man. He wanted foremost rigorous research. I’m sure he would have wished our results to have been more often positive, but he told me repeatedly that it was more important to conduct good research to a standard that would be acceptable even to sceptics, than to bend over backwards in an attempt to generate positive findings.”


    “Moving on: “…some [patients] are medicated against their clinicians advice.” Really? The patient has no medical knowledge, the doctor is supposedly the expert – so his/her advice is sometimes given and then he/she prescribes AGAINST IT? Why? Just because they WANT IT? What happened to the “evidence-based” rule?”

    Unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than that. When a patient walks into their GP’s asking for a biochemical answer to their unhappiness – and let’s face it, the ‘depression is an illness like any other’ message is widespread – the GP is faced with a choice. Do they ask them to pop back in a week before taking any action, do they help them explore some practical lifestyle changes (e.g. exercise, sleep hygeine, social activity), do they refer them for psychotherapy or other mental health support, or do they prescribe an elaborate placebo? In the event that the patient has neither the time, patience or inclination towards other (more evidence-based) options, they face the possibility of sending the patient away with nothing, feeling more hopeless and helpless than when they arrived (i.e. a sort of nocebo effect). It’s here where some clinicians might prescribe the elaborate placebo the patient is requesting. Of course others (and I’m not sure what proportion), prescribe uncritically, believing the pills to be medicinal. (I should add that there is evidence that SSRI’s are better than placebo for the 5% most severely depressed.) As for an answer to this dilemma, I have to confess, I’m not sure what it is.

    “Clients have to pay for private therapy. It’s not cheap. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t come back, or hardly any of them would. Despite Ernst’s best efforts over the last 17 years, we read that 25% of the public use CAM therapies. ”

    This is flawed reasoning: an argument from majority. Patients do pay for their healthcare in the US, where psychiatric prescriptions are booming. If the SSRI meta-analysis tells us anything, it tells us that the public and medical profession are wrong about the medicinal qualities of anti-depressants. The research also shows the same to be true of homeopathy and other CAM. Include the previously popular practice of blood-letting in this if you like…

    “It refers to drug trials, some of which might be selected for publication if they look more promising than the rest, and some of the “evidence” will be buried because “it’s the wrong kind of evidence”. VERY scientific!”

    I know, we agree here; you don’t need to labour these points with me.

    “How dare he talk about us in that way! It isn’t US that’s killing and hospitalising thousands of people every year, it’s your so-called “evidence-based” medications!”

    Well, it’s not that simple. Taking homeopathic sugar tablets is unlikely to kill you, but it might affect your prognosis if you take it instead of conventional medicine. Taking homeopathic sugar tablets instead of malaria or other vaccines, can be deleterious to your health. Other therapies such as Chinese Herbal Medicine and the manipulation therapies, do come with under-reported side-effects, some of which can be serious. Selling unevidenced-based acupuncture to couples for fertility treatment is unlikely to kill anyone, but may give false hope, and watch desperate couples getting older (and poorer) before considering IVF or adoption (for instance).

    “Sorry, fair point. But you have me at something of a disadvantage when you know exactly who I am, what I do and what my professional and personal interest in these matters is.
    All you will tell me is that you are “a health professional”, which is a little coy.”

    Chris, you are at no disadvantage. None of my arguments make any appeal to authority. Either my statements are valid or they’re not. Either you’re being sincere in your arguments, or your chancing, in the hope I know less than you. If you’re genuinely interested in truth – and dare I say, changing your mind – then it makes no difference who your conversational partner is. However, if you’re wanting to defend a position no matter what, then I agree, it probably does.

    I guess my advice – and feel free not to take it – would be to trust the hypnotherapy findings on smoking cessation, unless of course you have specific methodological concerns that you might want to communicate here, or in the relevant academic journals’ letters sections. From a quick glance, it looks like Ernst’s 2000 findings (and he was 5th author) has since been corroborated by another 2010 Cochrane Review. However, this says nothing about your personal practice; you’re perfectly entitled to be an outlier, and perform well above the market standard.

    With that, I think I’m going to leave you to it, as I’m afraid I can’t pin down exactly what you think (this may be me).

    Good luck in the work you do.


  23. Adam, you just quoted Ernst at me. You just tried to ‘enlighten’ me regarding my serious doubts about the Laing Chair BY QUOTING ERNST! I don’t believe a word that joker says, have you not got that yet? And the sentence you began with the word “presumably” isn’t a presumption, you have simply swallowed the backstory verbatim. Funny how that backstory in the press never mentions Ernst’s links with the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical world: he was a member of the Medicines Commission of the British Medicines Control Agency, now part of the MHRA – the same body that slapped Ben Goldacre down for suggesting that people were at serious risk from medicines because they weren’t being properly tested.

    I KNOW you’re not very interested in the true origin of the Laing Chair, because you probably have no more intention of changing your mind about Ernst than I have, and any doubts about how this project ever got off the ground in the first place would inevitably cast doubt on both Ernst and his actual aims (as distinct from his original stated aims as reported by The Guardian et al).

    Why do I doubt Ernst’s version of events? Firstly, because it is a tale that is oft told, but never starts at the beginning. We know nothing of Laing’s views about any of it by the way, we only know what Ernst says about him later. Laing is dead. Laing’s words here are provided by Ernst, the very person I have serious doubts about.

    The first scene we are told about is the one where several universities turn the idea of the Laing Chair away (Ernst tells us). This is because the funding is for research into Complementary Medicine (or so Ernst tells us). This funding was therefore regarded as “hotter than cigarette money” in Ernst’s phrase. But hang on: cigarette money may be regarded as “hot” because tobacco kills 5 million people every year, which is a bad thing. Laing’s money came from construction, which also kills quite a lot of people by accident every year, but not anything like that number, and anyway, Ernst tells us that the reason for universities shying away was not the construction connection, but the fact that the subject to be studied was… Complementary Medicine! The suggestion was that the universities concerned were afraid that such research would not be taken seriously by others in the academic world, like it’s the occult, or something.

    I’m not convinced. Universities in the UK routinely run research projects into things arguably far more controversial and academically questionable than that! Popular music from a Marxist perspective, a deconstruction of Gender in TV soap operas – just about anything in the Art Departments of any university in the land. Universities LOVE controversy. Why would they shy away from studying Complementary Medicine? Traditionally they have shied away from TEACHING it, but even that is changing now.

    No, British universities are very broad in scope when it comes to finding something to STUDY, especially if some kind soul is going to give them £2 million to do it. And they’re not afraid of controversy when it comes to the research they do: that’s lively debate and good publicity, gets the university a mention in the press, excellent.

    It turns a bit sour when their key researcher calls the heir to the throne a “snake-oil salesman” in the press, though. To any academic institution that would be BAD publicity because it’s simply bad conduct, and a personal attack. That’s probably not what Laing had in mind, whatever the research findings.

    So I simply don’t believe that these universities were turning funding away because they were prejudiced about complementary medicine itself. Perhaps they had had other reasons for turning Laing’s offer down.

    Complementary medicine hardly ever kills anyone, even though Ernst suggests homeopathy killed Steve Jobs – actually that was cancer. Homeopathy didn’t even cause the delay – Steve Jobs did. How many people with cancer go to homeopaths? Hardly any! I wouldn’t – would you?

    Just as a counterbalance – since you brought up the USA, and how popular drugs are over there – modern medicine is reckoned to kill on average more than 750,000 Americans every year, and about 106,000 of those are killed by the drugs that you call “evidence-based medicines” I.e., the “evidence” suggested that they were safe. Hardly reassuring, is it?

    I searched in vain for evidence of complementary medicine killing people in any significant numbers, but I did find THIS article warning us that 86 people had been killed by badly-trained acupuncturers – which could obviously be fixed with better training. By the way, that’s not just in the USA, but WORLDWIDE. And not just in a year, but…

    wait for it…

    …over the last 45 years! Holy Mother of God, do we really need to be WARNED about that? Nearly all those deaths were in China and Japan anyway, but the article appeared in a British newspaper. Who is warning us about this terrible risk to our collective safety? Oh, it’s Edzard Ernst! And The Guardian, which helped Ernst out with his ridiculous scaremongery to an embarrassing degree.

    So THIS is the kind of thing he means when he calls alternative medicine “unethical and criminal”. And he suggests that the “reason” is because it is “untested” by scientists!

    Ladies and gentlemen, over the next 45 years, at current death rates, pharmaceutical drugs are set to kill 4,770,000 in the USA alone, and modern medicine generally 33 million in that country alone. Those drugs HAVE been tested by “scientists”, but those scientists all work for the drug companies. And the medicines have all been approved by medical bodies and institutions that are supposed to PROTECT YOU – but they don’t. They protect the market. That’s why no-one will be prosecuted for any one of those drug deaths and it is very rare for the drugs responsible to be withdrawn no matter how many people they kill.

    So forgive me if I do NOT take your advice, Adam – much as I respect you personally – which would require trusting Ernst, the Cochrane bunch (don’t get me started – see book), N.I.C.E., the MHRA, A.S.H. and all the other ‘scientific’ people who wink at the carnage caused by chemicals whilst routinely warning the world about the supposed “dangers” of alternatives that don’t do any of that to anyone, really. Negligible. 86 people in 45 years the world over, I ask you!

    The man is perfectly ridiculous.

    Adam, I wish you well and thanks for the debate. But if you’re in any doubt about “what I think” after all that – yeah, it’s you.

  24. Here’s the thing, readers: public opinion can change things, regardless of what the powers that be would prefer. Public opinion in the USA forced the end of the Vietnam war against the wishes of the Department of Defense and the Nixon government – which was corrupt, as we all know now.

    It was the body count. Whatever the Department of Defense TOLD the American people, the body count spoke for itself: 58,000 American personnel dead over the ten years of the war. The tide of public opinion turned against the powers that be, and the horror was stopped. Not long after, the American President was proven to be guilty of criminality and corruption. A “conspiracy theory”? No: a shameful fact.

    At the current kill-rate, pharmaceutical medicines are set to kill 1,060,000 American citizens over the next ten years – over a million more than the Vietnam war. And that’s just in the USA – what the hell is the global figure?

    Edzard, that would be 4,770,000 dead over the next 45 years. And you keep suggesting the risks to the public come from alternative medicine? Let’s see – 86, as opposed to 4,770,000. I’m no mathematician, but… I think you’re full of shit.

    The drug giants are understandably worried about what would happen if the public actually realised this kill-rate collectively – well, they’d be looking for safer alternatives, naturally.

    So what to do? How to protect market share? (Follow the thinking of the global drug giants, it’s pretty simple.)

    Pre-empt this by putting people off the alternatives first! But how? We can’t point to the kill-rate, because there isn’t one really – and anyway, that might draw attention to the very horrific fact that threatens our share values… what if we tell everyone that the alternatives DON’T WORK…. but wait, that information cannot be seen to come from US, or some people might wonder if it is misinformation.

    No, it has to come from what appear to be trusted sources…

    It has to come from WITHIN the medical establishment.

    Just like the drug trials we run every day to get our killer medications passed as if they were safe, we can run similar but covert operations through the same system which publish studies that show the the alternatives don’t work, and sometimes hint that they might be risky even though they hardly ever harm anyone really. Then just publish the “findings” in the papers, like we do with the drug hype. No-one will suspect a thing, and over time it should create an overall impression in the minds of most folk that alternatives are a con and are best avoided…

    And it would be best if we had several different little groups “finding” these things, so that they appear to be corroberating one another’s “findings”.

    And so appeared, over time, A.S.H., the Cochrane Group, Ernst’s little outfit – and there’ll be others – doing meta-analyses and publishing misinformation that purports to protect the public whilst actually pulling the wool over their eyes. Drug trials – and aspecially meta-analyses, so loved by the Cochrane Group and Ernst – can make anything look good, or look bad – it’s all misinformation at the end of the day.

    Theory? No: A.S.H. purports to be an independent body of “concerned doctors” who were worried that not enough was being done to help smokers… That’s THEIR backstory! When Allen Carr tried to get the U.K. Department of Health to adopt his method to help more smokers quit because it has 55% success rate and NRT is only 6%, the Director of A.S.H. speaking on BBC Radio 4 accused him of “plucking his success rate out of the air”. Only he didn’t, it was an independent scientific study. The Allen Carr Group sued, and won – forcing an apology and legal costs from A.S.H.

    Did A.S.H. then start promoting the Allen Carr method after that, now it was proven to beat the meds? To “help smokers”? No – they only promote pharmaceutical products. “Ye shall know them by their fruits”, or to put it another way, actions speak louder than words.

    Ben Goldacre was keen to attack alternative medicine, which he AND Edzard Ernst declared should be subjected to the same rigorous testing procedures as conventional medicine… only there’s a problem with that, because the procedures aren’t rigorous at all, hence the kill-rate of almost two Vietnam Wars every single year in the U.S. alone. So – unlike Edzard Ernst – he went public with his concerns… whereupon the MHRA blithely denied there was a problem! Why? They are supposed to be protecting the public, who are they protecting really with that denial?

    Meanwhile Ernst’s concerns about public safety has him desperately scouring the last 45 years – and the globe – to try to scrape together a tiny number of “victims” of acupuncture so he can publish yet another scare story to (hopefully) put people off the alternatives and maybe distract them from the real threat: drugs.

    “Theory?” Why is the FDA bending over backwards to allow Champix to keep killing people and wrecking lives?

    “Theory”? Why was the approval for both Champix AND SSRIs (Prozac etc) not withdrawn when it came to light that crucial evidence had been hidden from the FDA by the manufacturers?

    Why is the French government the only one in the world (so far) to withdraw public funding for Champix on safety grounds since that deception came to light? Are all other governments okay with that sort of deception/neglect?

    Why has NRT not been scrapped now that the Department of Health know from their own research that it has exactly the same long-term outcome as willpower alone? Why did they stubbornly ignore Allen Carr when he correctly pointed out that his methods would save far more smokers – an attitude he denounced as a scandal, unnecessarily condemning thousands more smokers to death? He had independent scientific PROOF, and it was an impressive difference, too.

    Because as Ben Goldacre discovered, the whole system is corrupt as hell.

    Far fetched? Can pharmaceutical giants manipulate medical bodies and governments like that, and keep it all quiet?

    Well, The News of The World was doing it, weren’t they? Not a conspiracy theory: fact. They were paying cash to serving police officers for Christ’s sake. Politicians? High-ranking medical people? Why not?

    Who to trust?

    Well, it’s like the Vietnam war – whatever they tell you, just look at the body count. “By their fruits shall ye know them”, and there’s a rotting MOUNTAIN of it.

    Tweet it. Facebook it. Tell the world. It was TV that stopped the carnage of the Vietnam war. People SAW it, and they couldn’t stomach it. Women and children being killed with napalm and flamethrowers in the name of democracy! So people PROTESTED, and stopped it.

    It will be the internet that reveals the truth about the horrors and deception of the pharmaceutical industry – and all their little helpers. Killers, all – and on a far, far bigger scale than the Vietnam war.

  25. The attacks of Ernst, Goldacre, and others on homeopathy are in part a response to the biomedical community feeling feeling threatened by homeopathy’s success. The censored (never published) 2005 World Health Organization’s report on homeopathy indicated that it is the second most used medical modality in the world. The biomedical community also feels threatened, as Chris says, because the public is becoming aware that there are a significant number of deaths from standard drugs. For more information on that topic, see
    Shepherd, Rose. “Death of the Magic Bullet.” The London Times 31 July 2005 .

  26. Hi Chris.

    From reading Prof. Ernst’s blog on Pulse this afternoon, it looks like now (or at least tomorrow) might be the time to write an article about his retirement.


    Until around 150 years ago, bloodletting was amongst the most used medical modalities in the world. Do you think that said anything about it’s efficacy?

  27. Adam, that applies equally to the latest Wonder Drug, such as Champix… millions of prescriptions do not prove efficacy or popularity. They indicate serious and effective marketing by global organisations. Ernst says nothing about “evidence-based” (ie. supposedly proven reasonably safe) drugs killing thousands, but draws attention to tiny numbers accumulating over many years as “evidence” of a threat to the public from alt. med. (see my comment 27 above).

    Ernst has previously declared his intention to get more outspoken about complementary medicine following his ‘retirement’, which would suggest he is not retiring from his real aims at all. I don’t know what his Pulse blog says, but I don’t think I have anything more to say about him.

  28. Nah, he’s becoming Emeritus Professor, and even after that he’ll be trading on “former Professor of…” etc etc etc

    plus ca change, plus le meme chose

  29. Blind faith in “Science”, there! Kind of touching, isn’t it? Ah, bless! As if “science” didn’t have an economic dimension.

    Homeopathy? I’ve no idea, Seamus. I’m a hypnotherapist. I KNOW they both begin with ‘H’, but there the similarity ends.

    Except for people like you.

  30. In an article written in The 21st floor, EE is outraged that homeopaths in Germany have sponsored a character assassin to defame him. And I quote:

    “So what sort of untruths does this LITTLE H-sponsored character assassin tell about me?

    As the material is in German, I better tell my readers who might not master this language. Essentially, he repeats ad nauseam that I am a very bad scientist, that my results cannot be trusted, that I have lied about my past as well as about my qualifications, that I ”deliberately and dishonourably mislead my readers and the public”, that my “fan-club” are “atheistic fundamentalists”, that I “enjoy a very bad reputation within the scientific community”, that I react to criticism by conducting ad hominem attacks, that I am never prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue, and that all of this is politically motivated.”

    What can he possibly mean?

  31. Come on now Peter, let’s be fair: English is not Ernst’s first language. He simply has the concepts of “character assassination” and “character description” mixed up.

    When I confronted him on Skepticat’s blog, he refused to discuss the matter with (and I quote): “nit-wits who know nothing about anything.” That would seem to qualify as reacting to criticism by conducting an ad hominem attack and not being prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue, wouldn’t it?

  32. One little thing thing there I suspect is probably untrue, though: I’d say he HAS a very bad reputation within the scientific community. I doubt if he’s ENJOYING it.

  33. Hi, Adam, i have never read your stuff before. I have studied this Champix drug, for about 3 years now, so intensly i ended up sectioned through it. Let me tell you what this drug does, everything chris says is true, i have got copies of every clinical trial ever done on this drug. Even the one’s that where not published. And belive me its a dangerouse drug you are playing porker by taking it. This drug is linked to ADNFLE, which by the way, this was triggered in me in 2008, on withdrawl from Champix, nobody ever mentions withdrawl from this drug. As that is when the nasty stuff starts. Anyway not going to get into all my stuff i know about this drug. I have got the MHRA, Pfizer, and all my doctors to finally admit that, Champix can trigger this kind of epilepsy in some people, who have mutations, on the same receptors in the brain, that champix targets. This has all been proven, the thing is you have no way of knowing who has these mutations, and who does not. As that would involve varenicline being injected into somone brain while under a MRI scanner, this is classed as genetic testing on humans, which is againt the law, so can not be done. So therfore, even if only a small percent of the population, end up with disease being triggered by this drug. We dont get listen to because, they think they can ignore us. Well, let me tell, you this drug has been given to 14 year old children at my daughters school,
    over my dead body will i allow this to happen. If you know anything about drug induced disease, you should know that the alph7 nicotinic receptor, is the one that is linked to Alzheimers. Champix acts as a full agonist at this receptor, but that receptor has nothing to do with stopping you smoking. The other receptors are Alpha4 Beta2 now these are to do with smoking, but they also can trigger Parkinsons, and Schiziphrenia. All true look it up, i will ask you this if it was not true, oh if people didnt know this when they made champix, why have Pfizer just tried, and failed as i new they would. To bring out a cure for Alzheimers, by blocking the Alpha7 receptor. That is the same thing what champix does, so why is champix not a cure for, Alzheimers. Blocking receptors in some people, can trigger disease, Fact. All the Doctors who give this drug out, dont even know what it is. Varenicline is a Cytisine anolog, a DNA copy of Cytisine. And yet Cytisine was thought to be too risky for the UK to use, as it cause very bad life thretening convulsions. The thing is by Pfizer making a DNA copy of it, they can then state its not the same anymore. And then they put a patent on the recipe, so no one knows how its made, and by giving it a new name, Varenicline, no one can even look up what it is untill it has been on the market for so long. And by that time they are not bother if anyone finds out the recipe, as they have already made enough money. Tabex is Cytisine, and yet you dont hear people raving about that. Cytisine Laburnan plant, or Golden Rain plant, is one of the biggest killers, of horses, and children in the world. And thats from eating the leaves of the plant. Champix is made from extracting the cytisine from the seeds, which are a lot more portant. And unless you measure all the seeds, to make sure they are the same size and weight, which would just take far to long. And by the way Pfizer did not do, because i asked them. You will get different results, everytime. None of the above happen with Hypnosis. I was given no warning, even after telling the smoking clinic, that i had a febrile convulsion, at 18months old, that this drug could even cause seizures. Did you also know that before they brought it out as a stop smoking drug, that they even thought it could be used as an anti-epileptic. Of cause this did not work, because nicotine itself can be a treatment for ADNFLE, it only takes common sence, if it blocks nicotine, and yet nicotine can be used as an anti-epileptic, why could it not trigger ADNFL Epilepsy.

  34. Sorry, one more thing, varenicline is not even in the British Medical Associations medical dictionary, this is a book what all GPs in the UK use and have on there desks. And its not in there nither is Cytisine, so how are Doctors, know what it is they dont. The Doctors are realy on NICE, and MHRA guidelines, and do you know where they get there info from, i know because i have it in writing. Pfizer who make the drug, now i would say that is a bias, opinion. My next move is iam doing a pertition to the goverment, about conflict of intrests. As one of the people who has just been put in charge of the MRC who by the way is funded by public money. Is a VP for Pfizer. Pfizer through think tanks, and other methods, have been behind 50% of our currant tory goverments, funding. And did you know that David Camerons new press sec Susie Squires, has connections to Pfizer, just like his old one Gabby Bertin did. And no before you ask, no iam not a reporter, nor have i done any of this research for finacial gain. I just think, putting profit before human health is wrong. I asked Barkley Phillips from Pfizer to prove me wrong, his reply was he could not.
    Oh one more thing, have you looked at who is interested in getting hold of our NHS if it go’s private, yes Pfizer, and yet 140 lords who are voting on this bill have shares in Phamacutical companies, whats happend to our democracy, thruth is there isant on anymore. Please its time people stand up and be heard, and fight for the thruth and not be bullied and dictated to by the house of lords who dont care about people, they just care about making money, i thought that would stop after Tony Blair, but its getting worse.

  35. Hi Samantha.

    Have just spotted your post addressed to me (I think). Thanks for taking the time to correspond – and I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a difficult time – but you misunderstand me. I know almost nothing about Champix; my reason for posting here was purely to engage with Chris on our differences regarding Prof. Edzard Ernst and complimentary/alternative therapy.

    I wish you luck in your research, and hope your as critical with your own theories as you are others’.

    All the best.


  36. Hi again Adam, I am very critical with my own theories, I have finally got a report from my neurologist that states Champix triggered my epilepsy. I have talked to people all around the world, experts in genetics, experts in epilepsy, and experts in bio chemistry, not one of them can prove my theory wrong. I asked Pfizer why were people with a history of seizures left out of clinical trails, they said that all people with history of medical conditions are not entered into clinical trials. The only people they trial have to be fit and healthy, I understand that this is the only way you can determine if the drug being tested is causing harm.
    That’s fine, but why then after it has been tested on people who are healthy, and found not to be that harmful to them, why is it not tested on people with history of illness, as these are the kind of people who are more likely to use the drug when it comes on the market. All the side-effects that are now coming to light, are the very conditions, that if people were known to suffer from, were left out of clinical trials. So then Pfizer are just able to say: Oh but we can’t blame Champix for triggering disease in some people, as it has not been tested in that area, so you can not say undoutedly that the drug caused it. I have give the MHRA and Pfizer evidence of a link, but unless I can get someone to fund correct clinical trials – and they know we don’t have money to do that – they say it can not be proven. But neither can it be disproved. I just wish that someone out there would fund my research. I have even got a scientist at Oxford UK, willing to do this trial but need to get her the funding. If any millionaires out their would like to help, please get in touch.

    Thanks Samantha.

  37. Seems obvious to me that if all people with a history of a medical condition are excluded from the trials that are supposed to test the drug for safety, then the licence to sell it should only allow you to sell it to people with people with no history of a medical condition, since it has never been tested for safety on anyone else.

  38. Thanks Samantha

    Like I say, I know almost nothing about Champix. However, if what you say is true, I can understand why drug companies aren’t able to test on people with serious medical conditions. A key principle of research ethics re. human experimentation, is ‘non-maleficence’ – i.e. the ability to demonstrate that the experiment is unlikely to cause harm. This would be difficult to demonstrate in people with pre-existing medical conditions unrelated to the proposed treatment. But you’re right, this does leave a gap in the empirical data. However, you may have heard of the UK’s ‘yellow card scheme’? As I understand it, this is the MHRA’s system for post-market drug surveillance, where clinicians are encouraged to report potential new and strange side-effects in patients started on new drugs. You might want to enquire about the status of ‘yellow card’ submissions in relation to Champix, to see if any patterns are emerging from the noise? Not quite sure how you’d go about it though…

  39. Ok Adam, you have not read all my comments. If you had you would have known that I have been in touch with Sir Kent Woods the head of the MHRA, the last time he got back to me was January 2011. That is why I got my MP involved, he also has not got back to him yet either. When you put somthing in writing to the MHRA they have 21 days to get back to you. As you can gather this has not been done. The other problem is that if you ask them a question about Champix, they get in touch with Pfizer, who make the drug, for the answer. Did you also know that the MHRA get funding from drug companies. The only clinical trial data the MHRA have to go off is Pfizer’s data. Now common sense should tell you that no company that makes a product will say anything bad about it. And if all the info comes from the very company who make the product, is that not a bias opinion?

    The fact is Varenicline (Champix) is licensed under European laws, which are a lot more relaxed than UK ones. This is what Pfizer seem to be doing. They fund all sorts of things, through Think Tanks that they set up. One of these Think Tanks set up by Pfizer funds 50% of our tory government. Then when Pfizer gets question on a subject they don’t like, they threaten to their funding away. I have evidence of this, from copies of letters I have from the House of Lords, between Pfizer UK and a certain MP who I will not name yet. The Lib Dems know about the evidence that I have gathered, and it is all correct. That is why I have Lib Dem help with my research, and also why I have not been sued for libel. If what I was saying was not true, they would have shut me up by now. That is why I am having a petition drawn up, with help from the Lib Dems, about conflicts of interests within the House of Lords.

    Yes, 140 Lords have private interests in Health Care. This means that when they vote on Bills being passed in this area of interest, they could potentially be making money, for self-gain, for passing certain Bills. This is a conflict of interests, and its starts to put profit before human health. These members of the House of Lords should not be allowed to vote on things that they have personal interests in. It’s utter madness: if you were called for jury service, and you got to court and knew the defendent, and you told the court, you would not be allowed to be on the jury, as you would not be in a position to give a non-biased judgement as your judgement could be influenced by knowing things about the defendant, or case, that other jury members didn’t know.

    With members of government bodies and Lords having private interests, like shares in Drug companies, is this not a similar sort of thing? Did you know that David Cameron’s Press Secretary, Susie Squire, has connections to Pfizer. Also his old Press sec Gabby Bertin had connections to Pfizer. And this should blow your mind the two people who are being put in charge of the UK MRC, in October 2012: one was the vice-president for Pfizer, and the other one is a baroness who has shares in Pfizer. Now the MRC are the very people who are supposed to research drugs. These are the very people who I have given evidence to about Champix links to certain diseases. They have done nothing, I wonder why. It’s human nature: you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I have found scientific papers dated 1997, that states Varenicline links to Parkinsons, and ADNFL Epilepsy. Now this is long before Champix came on the market. So why were we not told of this link in the side-effects leaflet? They still have not put seizures on as a side-effect. Pfizer say that Doctors should look into patient history, and then decide if it is ok for their patient to take. That is what Doctors do, before giving any drug out. But if a drug has a patent put on it, how would your Doctor know if you are going to have an adverse reaction to a drug that is the first of its kind, and also they don’t know the substance is. You look up Varenicline in a medical dictionary it is not there – neither is cytisine, which it has been developed from. How can a Doctor be asked to make a decision on whether a drug can cause a patient harm or not, if they dont even know what the substance is. The answer is, they look up advice given by NICE, MRC and MHRA. Where do they get advice from? The drug companies who make the drugs.

  40. Fair enough. Any uncovering of Big Pharma fraud and corruption is fine by me. If you’re onto something, I hope you get the result you’re looking for.

  41. If you are interested, I have started a petition about conflicts of interests: Profit Before Human Health.
    I have been in the local paper (Burnley Express), and have a page on twitter named varenicline. Please have a look and see if you are interested in helping.

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