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Wednesday, 24 August 2005 11:03
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Professor blasts Prince’s alternative medicine study
A leading expert has dismissed the findings of a report commissioned by the Prince of Wales to examine the health benefits and financial savings associated with alternative medicines as “outrageous and deeply flawed”.

The Prince, an enthusiastic backer of complimentary medicines, hoped to persuade the Government offer more of them on the NHS by claiming they could save the heath service billions of pounds.

The initial findings of the report, authored by Christopher Smallwood, former chief economics advisor to Barclays Bank, suggest that the NHS could save between £500 million and £3.5 billion by offering spinal manipulation therapies as a standard NHS treatment.

Furthermore, the report claims that £480 million would be saved if one in 10 GPs offered homeopathic treatments as an alternative to standard pharmaceuticals, and that £38 million could be saved by prescribing the herbal remedy St John’s wort to 10 per cent of depression patients.

But Britain’s leading expert in the field, Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Exeter, said that the findings contradicted medical and scientific evidence which suggest that the NHS would incur a cost if it provided alternative medicines.

“These are outrageous estimates without any strong evidence to support them,” Professor Ernst said. “The report glosses over the science and its methodology is deeply flawed.

“It is highly selective in its use of evidence and it looks like the conclusions have been written before everything else. It is based on such poor science it’s just hair-raising. The Prince of Wales also seems to have overstepped his constitutional role.

“They have selected all the positive evidence and left out all the negative studies. They have overinterpreted and misinterpreted the data they do include. They changed the study’s methodology repeatedly as they went along, which is a well-known source of error and bias.”

The Prince’s communications secretary, Paddy Harverson, rejected claims that anyone had tried to influence the conclusions of the report.

“It is entirely inappropriate for anyone to be commenting on the report when it has not even been completed, let alone published,” he said.


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