Alternative medicines should be treated with caution, according to a leading UK professor.
Professor Edzard Ernst, of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, is the only professor of complementary medicine in the UK. He has claimed that trials into alternative treatment often fail to record incidents when patients suffered adverse effects.
Professor Ernst and a colleague looked at 60 randomised trials of treatments like chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and herbal remedies published between 2000 and 2011.
They found that standards were lower than those required of pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs, and 29 of these failed to mention adverse effects.
Writing in the Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, Professor Ernst said: "Previous research had demonstrated that 50 per cent of patients experience adverse effects after chiropractic treatment and some can be severe, even fatal."
He also revealed 40 cases where death was linked to chiropractic treatment, although not a proven cause. Prof Ernst has carried out similar reviews of trials into acupuncture and herbal remedies, and found the degree of lack of reporting of adverse effects to be "fairly consistent".
Ernst now says that whilst alternative medicine can be useful for particular problems like back pain, it should be treated with caution.
Peter Dixon, president of the General Chiropractic Council, which regulates practitioners, said he could not comment on recent research such as that carried out by Professor Ernst.
Although he emphasised he was not familiar with Ernst's latest study, he said the academic was "prone to sensationalising" and "cherry-picking" studies to prove his point of view.
If you do want to be covered for alternative medicine on your private medical insurance, look for a health insurance policy with cover for complementary therapies.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012