Charles attacked over `hair-raising' and `dangerous' alternative therapies

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The Independent Online
A new book issued by the Prince of Wales's foundation to promote alternative health therapies has been condemned as unscientific and potentially dangerous by the country's leading authority on complementary medicine.

The book, to be launched next week and issued to all GP surgeries, is encouraging the public to resort to unproven treatments, says Professor Edzard Ernst, who holds Britain's only academic chair in the field.

He described one draft of the Prince's book as "hair-raisingly flimsy, misleading and dangerous", and revealed that his repeated offers to correct the text free of charge were rejected.

Complementary Health Care: a guide for patients is published by the Foundation for Integrated Health and offers advice on how to find the 12 most popular non-standard therapies, including reflexology, herbal medi- cine and yoga therapy. It is part-funded by the Government.

Professor Ernst, from the Peninsula Medical School at Exeter and Plymouth Universities, has written three letters to the foundation expressing his anxiety about statements he says were "frankly inaccurate" and "over- optimistically misleading", but to little effect.

"My remit is to apply science to complementary medicine," the professor said. "That puts me somewhat on a collision course with someone who promotes therapies with no basis in scientific evidence," he said.

He welcomes the Government's decision to put a range of alternative treatments on the health service menu, but insists that therapies should be tested before they receive the backing of Prince Charles or the Government.

The row comes as ministers struggle to regulate the booming market in non-standard therapies. With no formal controls, it is feared the public is in danger from unqualified practitioners. One in five Britons now say they have used herbal or homeopathic medicines, and more still are signing up for strenuous forms of yoga and head massage. This is thanks partly to high-profile support from the likes of Madonna, Cherie Blair and Gwyneth Paltrow, left.

Michael Fox, chief executive of the Foundation for Integrated Health, which has the Prince of Wales as its patron, said that Professor Ernst's views had been fully taken into account. "Where Professor Ernst and the foundation might disagree is that he sees a terribly black and white picture," he said.

Agenda, page 29

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