UK herbal veteran Professor Edzard Ernst retires

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Edzard ernst, University

Professor Ernst: Retiring (but not the retiring type)
Professor Ernst: Retiring (but not the retiring type)
Professor Edzard Ernst, who once had a famous spat with Prince Charles after criticising claims being made by the Prince’s now defunct Foundation for Integrated Health, has announced his has retirement as director of the Complementary Medicine Research Group after the University of Exeter, where it was located, announced the closure of his post.

The Complementary Medicine Research Group was set up in 1993 to promote botanical research by Sir Maurice Laing who tasked Professor Professor Ernst, at the University of Vienna at the time, with its establishment.

Professor Ernst has been a long-time advocate of robust clinical trials to back therapeutic claims in the botanicals sector, a position that won him as many friends as enemies, and provoked his tete-a-tete with the heir to the British crown, who did not appreciate his criticisms.

“I am retiring because the £2 million donated by the Laing Foundation is running out,”​ he told the blog, Zeno, and noted last-minute negotiations meant the Uni of Exeter post may not collapse after all.

“My University had signed a contract to match this sum, but fund raising was never successful. After Prince Charles complained to the Vice Chancellor about me five years ago, it stopped altogether. Instead of fulfilling their promise, the University told us that they will close us down in May 2011. It was only because I could persuade the new dean who started in September 2010 to reconsider that complete and final closure was averted.”

The Professor will stay on part-time to find a successor, noting the good work of his group must go on.

We are the only group who is doing full-time CM research not for proving that this or that therapy is effective and safe but for testing whether that is the case,”​ he said.

“This is such an important difference! It is the difference between a scientist and a promoter. The latter we don’t need in academia, promoters; they already populate every other strand of society.”

Quackery and charlatans

He said his retirement would see him become, “outspoken about quackery and charlatans. I look forward to that. Hopefully, UK libel law has changed by then. “

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2 comments

hope for the future

Posted by Ben,

Hopefully the new successor will attract funding for new human clinical research rather than mostly just reviewing existing literature and damming the CAM industry as Ernst has done.

If Ernst's work has pointed anything positive out, its that we need more, high quality studies on promising CAM therapies.

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not too soon!

Posted by Liz Marsden,

Ernst's main fear was to be mocked by his medical colleagues as a "miracle worker!

In the end, he lost credibility because people who were helped by alternative therapies and that is most of the public, just did not take him seriously.

Let's just hope that he stops doing damage to our freedom to practice all sorts of medicines together - which Henry VIII set up 500 years ago - in the future. We already lost herbalism which stood us in good stead for millenia. What madness is this?

I was also personally getting fed up being referred to as the "gullible public" in his articles.

To say that "alternative therapies should cease to exist" (unless they have hundreds and thousands of pounds for research) is the most authoritarian statement I have ever heard in my life. We live in a free country, let's keep it that way!!!

Goodbye and good holidays! (I heard Patagonia is nice)

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