Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies
© 2013 Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Edited By: Edzard Ernst, Peninsula Medical School, UK
Online ISSN: 2042-7166
Virtual Issue: CAM for Sceptics
Close observers of Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (FACT) will have noticed that over the last few years, our stance has become more critical, some would say sceptical. This is not coincidental, it is entirely deliberate. I am convinced that the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can do with a more critical and sceptical outlook.
When I started as a full-time CAM researcher almost nineteen years ago, Exeter University held a press conference. One of the questions addressed to me by a journalist was “what will you do when your medical colleagues are sceptical about CAM?” I did not have long to think of an answer; my reply was: “No problem, I will be more sceptical than they are”. At the time, people thought I was joking – but I was not. Throughout the last nineteen years, I have steadfastly maintained that an uncritical scientist is a contradiction in terms. Many proponents of CAM now seem to accept, perhaps even respect that attitude, and I hope it has contributed to a change within CAM in general. But what about scepticism? By and large, sceptics are not well tolerated in the area of CAM. I think that this is regrettable.
Scepticism is usually defined as a questioning attitude towards knowledge, opinion or beliefs stated as facts. I cannot see anything wrong with this stance – in fact, I think more of it is urgently needed if CAM is to mature into more than just a passing fad. With FACT, one of our aims is to question the beliefs held in CAM. We want to be critical and, where necessary, sceptical because we think that it is this attitude that creates progress in healthcare. I therefore hope that FACT readers will feel inspired rather than dismayed by this virtual issue on “CAM for Sceptics”.
Edzard Ernst, Editor-in-Chief of FACT
Laing Chair in Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, UK
Virtual Issue Articles
The Prince and the pauper
Bias in (complementary) medical research
Max H Pittler