In April 2010 the Deutscher Zentralverein homoeopathischer Aerzte (German National Association of Homeopathic Physicians) published an interview with Professor Edzard Ernst in its newsletter.
In this interview Ernst claims that he “acquired the prerequisites” to be able to add ‘homeopathy’ to his medical title “but never applied for the title”. In fact, a crucial ‘prerequisite’ in Germany, where homeopathy is regulated, is to have passed an exam at the relevant regional branch of the German Landesaerztekammer (medical council), and Ernst never did this. As the interviewer points out:
“So is it correct that you did not acquire the additional medical title ‘Homeopathy’ but took further medical education courses in homeopathy? If yes, which ones?
Ernst: "I never completed any courses.”
In short, it appears that the leading ‘authority’ on homeopathy, and perhaps its most referenced critic, has no qualifications in homeopathy.
This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read William Alderson’s Halloween Science, the detailed critique of Ernst and Simon Singh’s Trick or Treatment? In his discussion of the chapter on homeopathy Alderson concludes that:
“it destroys entirely Ernst and Singh’s credibility as a reliable source of information about at least one of the therapies they discuss in detail, and this renders highly questionable their reliability as a source of information about all the other therapies.”
Alderson also claims that Trick or Treatment? shows Ernst to be unreliable as a researcher into homeopathy. He outlines 11 mistakes which can arise from ignorance of the principles of homeopathy, and which can seriously affect the reliability of randomised controlled trials and meta-analyses of homeopathy. None of these are mentioned by Ernst and Singh.
“What is unforgivable in two ‘trained scientists’ (p. 3) is they have not considered the implications of these issues in respect of the validity of trials. They do not even refer to any of them when they present two trials to illustrate that individualisation does not guarantee the success of homeopathy.”
Ernst’s failure to take these issues seriously is confirmed by the interview, when he is asked:
“Do you see fundamental problems with double-blind studies for individualised methods?"
This failure is also confirmed by looking at the protocol of a trial of Arnica he specifically mentions in his career details. In this trial approximately one third of the patients were given Arnica 30c and another third Arnica 6c, and “Tablets were to be taken three times daily for seven days preoperatively and fourteen days postoperatively.” Not only did this mean that treatment was not individualised, but patients were taking medicine for a week before the operation when there was nothing to treat. Such a procedure will have unpredictable effects, and is anathema to homeopathic principles and prescribing practice.
We believe that it is time to recognise that opposition to homeopathy is largely based on the opinions of individuals who are unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly. Against them is the experience of millions who have actually benefited from homeopathy. A recently published example of this success is the trial in Cuba where 2.3 million people were immunised homeopathically against endemic Leptospirosis. In two weeks, the infection rate plummeted by 80% in the trial areas and the mortality rate dropped to zero, with this success continuing though the following year.[9,10]
One person may be right and 2.3 million may be wrong, but this interview confirms the evidence which H:MC21 has already presented, namely that one individual, Edzard Ernst, is not a credible source of information about the effectiveness of homeopathy.
For H:MC21 Press release click here.For translation of the interview click here.For link to the original interview in German click here.For link to the Deutscher Zentralverein homoeopathischer Aerzte website click here.
1. ‘Interview mit Professor Edzard Ernst, Exeter’, Homoeopathische Nachrichten, April 2010, pp. 1-3, available at: <http://www.dzvhae.com/portal/pics/abschnitte/300410102802_hn168april10.pdf?PHPSESSID=273eb20b3c19d743c6c106bbd56fd1dc>. The translation can be downloaded below.
2. There are no qualifications mentioned in his career details on the Peninsula Medical School website at <http://www.pms.ac.uk/compmed/ErnstCV-extended.pdf>, accessed 17 March 2009.
3. Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial (London: Bantam Press, 2008).
4. William Alderson, Halloween Science (Stoke Ferry: Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, 2009), p.86
5. Halloween Science, pp. 57-62.
6. Halloween Science, p. 61.
7. <http://www.pms.ac.uk/compmed/ErnstCV-extended.pdf>, accessed 17 March 2009.
8. C. Stevinson BSc MSc, V.S. Devaraj FRCS FRCS(Plast), A. Fountain-Barber MCSP SRP, S. Hawkins MCSP SRP, E. Ernst MD PhD, ‘Homeopathic arnica for prevention of pain and bruising: randomized placebo-controlled trial in hand surgery’, J Roy Soc Med, 96 (2003), 60-65, p. 61.
9. G. Bracho, E. Varela , R. Fernández, B. Ordaz, N. Marzoa, J Menéndez, L. García, E. Gilling, R. Leyva, R. Rufín, R. de la Torre, R.L. Solis, N. Batista, R. Borrero, C. Campa, ‘Large-scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control’, Homeopathy, 99 (2010),156-66, at <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20674839>.
10. ‘Homeopathy associated with dramatic reduction in Leptospirosis infection in Cuban population’ Faculty of Homeopathy press release, 3 August 2010, at <http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/media/press_releases/leptospirosis_infection_in_Cuban_population.html>