I was asked by NATURE to provide a comment on the WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit: Towards health and well-being for all which is about to take place in India:

The First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit will take place on 17 and 18 August 2023 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. It will be held alongside the G20 health ministerial meeting, to mobilize political commitment and evidence-based action on traditional medicine, which is a first port of call for millions of people worldwide to address their health and well-being needs.

The Global Summit will be co-hosted by WHO and the Government of India, which holds the presidency of the G20 in 2023. It will be a platform for all stakeholders, including traditional medicine workers, users and communities, national policymakers, international organizations, academics, private sector and civil society organizations, to share best practices and game-changing evidence, data and innovation on the contribution of traditional medicine to health and sustainable development.

For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has been an integral resource for health in households and communities. It has been at the frontiers of medicine and science laying the foundation for conventional medical texts. Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. New research, including on genomics and artificial intelligence are entering the field, and there are growing industries for herbal medicines, natural products, health, wellness and related travel. Currently, 170 Member States reported to WHO on the use of traditional medicine and have requested evidence and data to inform policies, standards and regulation for its safe, cost-effective and equitable use.

In response to this increased global interest and demand, WHO, with the support of the Government of India, established in March 2022 the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine as a knowledge hub with a mission to catalyse ancient wisdom and modern science for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The WHO Traditional Medicine Centre scales up WHO’s existing capacity in traditional medicine and supplements the core WHO functions of governance, norms and country support carried out across the six regional Offices and Headquarters.

The Centre focuses on partnership, evidence, data, biodiversity and innovation to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health, universal health coverage, and sustainable development, and is also guided by respect for local heritages, resources and rights.

cross-regional expert panel will advise on the Summit’s theme, format, topics and issues to address. All updates will be posted here and on the forthcoming webpages for the First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit.

In case you are interested, the programme can be seen here.

And my comment? I am afraid, it was not very encouraging. I doubt that Nature will publish it in full. So, allow me to show you my unabridged comment:

The WHO has a long history of uncritically promoting alternative therapies. The Indian government has recently advocated irresponsibly dangerous nonsense, such as the use of homeopathy for the prevention and treatment of covid infections. The two together make an ominous initiative when it comes to alternative medicine.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in hosting a constructive dialogue about this subject. What seem ill-conceived, however, is the fact that the conference exclusively includes speakers who are staunch proponents of alternative medicine, a subject that, after all, remains highly controversial. Progress is not created by voicing one-sided, biased opinions. I fear that this meeting will result in the often before voiced platitudes and wishful thinking which no true scientist is then able to take seriously.

28 Responses to The ‘WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit’ on so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)

  • Well, they did ask you!

  • Thanks, Edzard! Concerning WHO’s promotion of irrational therapies – which under the cloak of “tradition” often spread pure superstition – your comment is perfectly right.
    Hanjo Lehmann

  • Surprised you didn’t “toe the line,” with your liberal views, you just practically endorsed Trump policies in regards to WHO. Bewildered.
    You a MAGA man?

  • Also, should be critically, not uncritically, promoting made the word used wrong.

  • You align with Trump, he detested WHO and cancelled them. You sure a “labotomy,” is necessary? You have secret Trump admirations. I am starting to wonder if all your books I read are via ghost writers?

  • Exactly. I think it is funny and hypocritical. I still believe half of your actual “scientific” blogs, actually admired. Politics, not so much.
    You told me not read if not liked, what purpose would that make? You don’t want discussion, that is not scientific, open dialogue.

    • glad we agree: you are hilarious!

      • Yes, we agree, WHO is full of shit, Trump is full of shit. We both agree Trump told us this 3 years ago and he was right.
        WHO is corrupted, it is being manipulated by bad actors, who may be paying inside sources to make decisions.

      • I need to clarify, I enjoy your actual medical blogs, recently 80% of blogs. I worded that last post wrong.
        I also understand this is your blog and your politics are your right to post. I have never said not to post. Just open game for me to reply.
        And no, will continue to read.

      • I think reading Jim’s comments has slightly lowered my IQ. Maybe if you find a way to potentise this text you could offer homeopathic lobotomies, possibly even remotely! For a modest fee of course.

        • I’m not sure this is a correct understanding of homeopathy (tho’ I acknowledge that there are as many understandings as there are homeopaths…).

          If the text in material doses serves to lower the intellect, shouldn’t it, in potentised form, boost it?

        • at Chris S

          Aamazing response. I hope you get a refund for IQ loss, did not know I could do that. My apologies, maybe I can reimburse some points. Can’t give you my points though, need all of them. I do have a friend, he doesn’t need them.
          He may wish payment, just like the WHO brass.

  • I suppose, the WHO is not immune for critisism, like in this case. When I read about it, I wondered what Edzard Ernst would think about it, and I’m not disappointed. But reject all of the WHO, because they tend to be a woe-friendly, doesn’t mean the whole organisation is worthless and should be detested, like mr. Trump did, because he didn’t agree with them on Covid.
    The WHO is an international organisation, paid for by it’s members. If 2 of their big contributers China and India are very defensive on their traditional medicine, it may not be suprising they use their influence. That doesn’t mean this is right, but money buys influence.

  • You are correct. A gathering of this magnitude is sure to make several decisions that is going to impact the health policies in a big way. Hence, the discussions should not be one-sided but involve critics too. It would be good if they devote considerable time on research and regulations in alternative medicine. But that would only remain a wish!

  • An here is what Nature just published [as predicted, my quote was shortened drastically]:

    • Hi Prof. Ernst,
      it might be interesting to you that the summit apparently was a great success, as just published as a correspondence letter in Nature!

      Quote:”Integrating TCIM that is based on a safety-assured scientific approach and combines empirical data with experiential wisdom will improve health outcomes and provide inclusive, culturally sensitive health services. It could help to drive innovation in research methods, drug discovery, healthy nutrition, mind–body medicine and nature-based practices.”

      I hope that you feel ashamed for how wrong you were in your critical view of this (completly scientific) health summit! 😉

      Jokes aside: It´s a real shame that rubbish like this “correspondence letter” are published in Nature. How can they publish phrases like “experiential wisdom” and “mind–body medicine” at all?! Wasn´t this journal supposed to be one of the leading scientific journals?!

      • yes, very sad!
        Therapies that “will improve health outcomes and provide inclusive, culturally sensitive health services” are those that have been shown to do more good than harm. And once that evidence is available they belong not to TCIM but to EBM.

  • It’s amusing and hypocritical, in my opinion. Half of your “scientific” blogs still have my respect. But politics seldom.

      this blog is not intended to be ‘science’; if you want to read my science, please read my peer-reviewed papers [there are plenty to chose from]

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