Edzard Ernst

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Edzard Ernst is notable for being the first Professor of Complementary Medicine in the United Kingdom.

He was attracted from his chair in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) at the University of Vienna to set up the department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in 1993 and became director of complementary medicine of the Peninsula Medical School (PMS) in 2002. He is the first occupant of the Laing[1] chair in Complementary Medicine. He was born and trained in Germany and since 1999 has been a British citizen.

He is the editor in chief of two medical journals, Perfusion and Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (FACT).


His research relates to all areas of complementary medicine with an emphasis on efficacy and safety. His research mainly involves clinical trials, surveys and systematic reviews/meta-analyses.

The Department use a specific definition of CAM:

"Complementary medicine is diagnosis, treatment and/or prevention which complements mainstream medicine by contributing to a common whole, by satisfying a demand not met by orthodoxy or by diversifying the conceptual frameworks of medicine."[2]

Applying science to CAM

Prof Ernst describes his approach[1] as applying science and not politics.

Some complementary practitioners have been uncomplimentary about him, as an initial expectation of an enthusiast for publicising unevaluated claims succumbed to a demonstration of critical appraisal and the application of the scientific method and the techniques of analysis of evidence-based healthcare to them. The few complementary therapy claims and techniques which survive this competent academic and scientific evaluation are left on a sound basis for adoption into the existing corpus of techniques of medicine.

He notes that in mainland Europe complementary techniques are largely practiced by qualified physicians, whereas in the UK they are mainly practiced by others, and also that CAM is an umbrella term, and since the various techniques and activities are so different from each other, each must be considered separately[3].

For some years Ernst contributed a regular column in the Guardian newspaper, frequently reviewing news stories about complementary medicine from an evidence-based perspective.

Other significant posts

Professor Ernst is a member of the 'Medicines Commission' of the British Medicines Control Agency(MCA) which determines what substances may be introduced and promoted as medicine. It is the current version of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM). He also sit on the 'Scientific Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products' of the 'Irish Medicines Board'. He is an external examiner for several university medical schools in several countries.


  1. Maurice Laing (director of Laing Construction established the Laing Chair of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in 2002 with a large donation
  2. Ernst et al British General Practitioner 1995; 45:506
  3. Interview: Harcourt International



  • Homoeopathy: A Critical Appraisal. 1998. ISBN 0-7506-3564-9 "Professional reference text on homoeopathy is a critical evaluation of the discipline, reviewing the known facts and defining the knowledge gaps. It offers a reliable analysis of the uses of traditional homoeopathic remedies. Illustrated. For medical and professional homoeopaths, students, general practitioners, and health care professionals." Amazon.
  • 'The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An evidence based approach. With others. Elsevier Science 2006

See also

External links

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