A critical look at so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – Prof. Edzard Ernst

We welcome Prof Edzard Ernst, formerly Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, the first such academic position in the world. He is founder of three medical journals and has been a columnist for many publications. His work has been awarded with 17 scientific awards (most recently the John Maddox Prize in 2015 and the Ockham Award in 2017) and two Visiting Professorships. During the last 25 years, Prof Ernst’s research focused on the critical evaluation of almost all aspects of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). He does not aim to promote SCAM, but provide objective evidence, reliable information and critical assessments of this work.

‘So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) can be defined as an umbrella term for a diverse range of therapeutic and diagnostic modalities which have little in common – other than being “outside” the mainstream of medicine. More than 400 different modalities have been counted. Well-known examples include acupuncture, chiropractic, herbalism and homeopathy.

In my lecture, I will use but a few examples and explain that, for most SCAMs, there is no convincing evidence of effectiveness. I will also demonstrate that many SCAMs have been associated with serious risks. Finally, I will show that only very few SCAMs generate more good than harm. It follows, I think, that integrating more and more of SCAM into routine healthcare is ill-advised.’ – Prof Ernst

This talk was co-hosted with Cambridge BioSoc.