My critics regularly display a lot of imagination. For instance, some come up with the claim that I have never done any original research.

Well, I have!

How much?

A lot.

The precise answer depends on how you define original research.

Usually, my detractors then focus on clinical trials. Prof Ernst can only criticise and find fault in studies of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) published by others, they claim, but he never did a single clinical trial in his life!

Well, I have!

The allegation came up recently in a legal case that I am involved in, and I was asked to prove that it is false. I skimmed through my files and found something that I had almost forgotten about. Until my retirement in 2012, I had kept a record entitled THE EVIDENCE, A DOCUMENTATION OF OUR CLINICALLY RELEVANT RESEARCH. The document is based on 470 of our published articles and 35 of our clinical trials (I do not know many SCAM-researchers who have done more).

For the legal case, I also did a Medline-search to get the links of clinical trials including the ones before the Exeter job. The list is quite incomplete but, for what it’s worth, here it is:

  1. Placebo-controlled, double-blind study of haemodilution in peripheral arterial disease Ernst E, et al. Lancet 1987 – Clinical Trial. PMID 2885450
  2. Regular sauna bathing and the incidence of common colds Ernst E, et al. Ann Med 1990 – Clinical Trial. PMID 2248758
  3. A single blind randomized, controlled trial of hydrotherapy for varicose veins Ernst E, et al. Vasa 1991 – Clinical Trial. PMID 1877335
  4. Effects of felodipine ER and hydrochlorothiazide on blood rheology in essential hypertension–a randomized, double-blind, crossover study Koenig W, et al. J Intern Med 1991 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 2045762
  5. Does pentoxifylline prolong the walking distance in exercised claudicants? A placebo-controlled double-blind trial Ernst E, et al. Angiology 1992 – Clinical Trial. PMID 1536472
  6. Exercise therapy for osteoporosis: results of a randomised controlled trial Preisinger E, et al. Br J Sports Med 1996 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 8889112 Free PMC article.
  7. Randomized trial of acupuncture for nicotine withdrawal symptoms White AR, et al. Arch Intern Med 1998 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 9818805
  8. Randomized, double-blind trial of chitosan for body weight reduction Pittler MH, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr 1999 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 10369493 Free article
  9. A randomized trial of distant healing for skin warts Harkness EF, et al. Am J Med 2000 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 10781776
  10. Can singing exercises reduce snoring? A pilot study Ojay A and Ernst E. Complement Ther Med 2000 – Clinical Trial. PMID 11068344
  11. A blinded investigation into the accuracy of reflexology charts White AR, et al. Complement Ther Med 2000 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 11068346
  12. Acupuncture for episodic tension-type headache: a multicentre randomized controlled trial White AR, et al. Cephalalgia 2000 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 11128820
  13. Spiritual healing as a therapy for chronic pain: a randomized, clinical trial Abbot NC, et al. Pain 2001 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 11240080
  14. Randomised controlled trial of reflexology for menopausal symptoms Williamson J, et al. BJOG 2002 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 12269681 Free article.
  15. Validating a new non-penetrating sham acupuncture device: two randomised controlled trials Park J, et al. Acupunct Med 2002 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 12512790
  16. Homeopathic arnica for prevention of pain and bruising: randomized placebo-controlled trial in hand surgery Stevinson C, et al. J R Soc Med 2003 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 12562974 Free PMC
  17. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of autologous blood therapy for atopic dermatitis Pittler MH, et al. Br J Dermatol 2003 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 12588384
  18. Individualised homeopathy as an adjunct in the treatment of childhood asthma: a randomised placebo controlled trial White A, et al. Thorax 2003 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 12668794 Free PMC article.
  19. Multiple n = 1 trials in the identification of responders and non-responders to the cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba Canter PH and Ernst E. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 2003 – Clinical Trial. PMID 12940592
  20. Effectiveness of artichoke extract in preventing alcohol-induced hangovers: a randomized controlled trial Pittler MH, et al. CMAJ 2003 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 14662662 Free PMC article.
  21. Autogenic training reduces anxiety after coronary angioplasty: a randomized clinical trial Kanji N, et al. Am Heart J 2004 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 14999212
  22. Does aromatherapy massage benefit patients with cancer attending a specialist palliative care day centre? Wilcock A, et al. Palliat Med 2004 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 15198118
  23. Randomised controlled trial of magnetic bracelets for relieving pain in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee Harlow T, et al. BMJ 2004 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 15604181 Free PMC article.
  24. Acupuncture for subacute stroke rehabilitation: a Sham-controlled, subject- and assessor-blind, randomized trial Park J, et al. Arch Intern Med 2005 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 16186474
  25. Autogenic training to reduce anxiety in nursing students: randomized controlled trial Kanji N, et al. J Adv Nurs 2006 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 16553681
  26. Autogenic training to manage symptomology in women with chest pain and normal coronary arteries Asbury EA, et al. Menopause 2009 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 18978640
  27. The effects of triple therapy (acupuncture, diet and exercise) on body weight: a randomized, clinical trial Nourshahi M, et al. Int J Obes (Lond) 2009 – Clinical Trial. Among authors: Ernst E. PMID 19274056

Five things I like about the list:

  1. It is long.
  2. It displays a wide variety of subjects.
  3. It hardly depicts me as a ‘pharma shill’.
  4. Most of the trials were published in top journals (suggesting they were of decent quality).
  5. It reminds me how much fun these studies often were (I wrote a chapter about No13 in my memoir, and I could write [very amusing] short stories about No 20 and [less funny but baffling] about No 17 and 23)

So, the next time they claim ‘Prof Ernst never did any clinical trials’, I will be able to shut them up by simply showing them this post.

I am looking forward to it!

19 Responses to ‘Prof Ernst has never done any clinical trials!’ – true or false?

  • While having done clinical studies might make someone a better analyst of the validity of a clinical trial, I’m not sure it is a prerequisite, anyway.

    Bad science is all around us. Unfinished science (which is just about all of it) is all around us. I’ve never done a clinical trial in my life yet I have a checklist that would allow me to easily spot a less-than-worthy clinical trial. If my criteria are valid, my analysis should be valid too.

    Am I wrong?

    • yes, I think that’s correct.
      for deeper assessments or for designing trials or for appreciating how difficult things can get, it helps to have done some yourself.

      • To date, Harriet “SkepDoc” Hall, MD, has been my tutor on all matter of this nature. Coincidentally, she just published an article on that subject on the Science-Based Medicine website about a week ago. A worthy read for anyone, especially those of us who are not docs but want to be able to sort the valid from invalid and the reliable from unreliable. It can be found here:

  • I agree with you, Edzard, that it IS bullshit that you haven’t published clinical trials…but what is VERY VERY interesting about your list is that you chose to NOT list one of your earliest trials where you tested a homeopathic medicine in the treatment of varicose veins…and you showed that this homeopathic formula WORKED!!!

    Ernst, E, Saradeth, T, and Resch, KL, Complementary Treatment of Varicose Veins – A Randomised, Place¬bo-controlled, Double-blind Trial. Phlebology (1990)5,157-163

    I’m curious what excuse you will give to NOT LISTING this trial.

    You’ve crossed over from simple bullshit to much larger elephant-shit…which is bigger.

    Is it any wonder that scientists are questioning the accuracy and ethics of your reporting?


    • oh Dana!
      aren’t you hilarious?
      as I stated, the list is what my Medline-search provided; it is ‘quite incomplete’.
      am I trying to hide the trial in question?
      I even published a post about it:
      found out as bull shitter par excellence, Dana?

    • Dana

      Your unfailing ability to demonstrate your stupidity on a routine basis manifests itself once again.

      You’ve either not read the study, or have done and have not understood it. Given your habit of bluff and bluster and your spectacularly inadequate levels of reading comprehension, either is possible.

      As other have said of the remedy tested, “any homeopath who claims that this is homeopathy, should be aware that he/she is committing high treason against just about everything homeopathy is”

      And, of course, there is no individualization. Which you always say means that the study lacks internal validity when a study is negative. (Although you always conveniently forget this when talking about notionally positive studies of homeopathy. Or when bilking gullible idiots with the worthless nostrums you hawk on your website)

      You are a stupid, stupid little man, Dana, devoid of moral, scruple and intelligence, worthy only of our mirthful contempt. Carry on posting. It’s gratifying to see the levels of intellectual barrenness needed to be a homeopathy fan.

      • don’t insult my friend, please

      • Lenny,

        Thanx again for showing your twit-ness. Calling me a “stupid, stupid little man” is clearly a projection. My sincere condolences to you.

        I am simply interested in knowing what works and what doesn’t work. Eddie’s trial on a homeopathic formula for varicose veins showed some efficacy…and yet, he chose to not include this trial in his list of clinical trials. “How convenient” that he chose to not include it.

        Strangely enough, Lenny chose to call me “devoid of moral, scruple and intelligence” despite my efforts to show that Edzard purposefully omitted referene to a study HE conducted that showed the efficacy of homeopathic medicine. Rather than thank me for helping him respond to critics who say that he doesn’t conduct clinical trials, you two instead choose to attack me.

        These ad homs happen when you have no other ground on which to stand and when you would prefer to deflect your immoral behavior onto others. Thanx for proving my case…

        • you aren’t getting any better, are you?
          the only one who chose – purposefully or not – to omit this study was MEDLINE.
          I explained it to you but you are impervious to explanation or reason.
          it could be sad, if it were not so funny.

        • sorry, I forgot:

        • Dana

          I am simply interested in knowing what works and what doesn’t work

          No you’re not. You are simply interested in finding and waving around any fatuous piece of research which you think validates your belief in the magic powers of shaken water. The mountains of science and data which show homeopathy not to work you ignore or try to dismiss with long-disproven arguments. This is why you are stupid.

          These ad homs happen when you have no other ground on which to stand and when you would prefer to deflect your immoral behavior onto others. Thanx for proving my case…

          Once again your limited powers of comprehension are on display, Dana. My and Edzard’s posts above explain exactly why you are a fool. Unable to answer, you resort, as ever, to name-calling and bluster. If your case is that you are a demonstrable idiot, I have indeed proved it for you, Dana. Mind you, you do a very good job of that yourself.

          You are an inconsequential buffoon, Dana. The only use your words have is to act as a teaching-aid to demonstrate to children the warped mindset and levels of scientific ignorance present in AltMed believers.

    • Rumplestiltskin again!

  • Oh and Dana

    “Is it any wonder that scientists are questioning the accuracy and ethics of your reporting?”

    Which “scientists” might these be? Pillars of the community, recognised and respected by all, or a couple of AltMed cranks who don’t like it when their particular pet brand of quackery is shown to be nonsense and have scrabbled around pathetically in an ineffectual attempt to discredit what the science says?

    Let’s guess, shall we?

  • I reviewed Scientist in Wonderland including the fun discussion of trial 13 in my previous column on Skeptical Briefs:

  • You are a member of a very elite club. Congratulations!
    “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.”
    Lancet, Apr 11, 2015 editorial, 
by Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief

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