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Setting things straight

From Mr N. Ross

In his letter, Robert Woodward (PJ, 7 January, p12) complains that: “the CAM [complementary and alternative medicines] industry and profession are no match for big pharmaceutical companies and modern medicine,” and that, “strict judgement of CAM by the criteria designed for modern drugs and medical interventions can never succeed.”

These are striking admissions. The global CAM industry is worth billions so, if it is “no match” for the pharmaceutical companies, this is not due to a lack of resources; and look at how many biotechnology firms have sprung up to compete with the traditional drug industry. Perhaps firms like Dr Woodward’s are too comfortable making money or too intellectually complacent to bother with original research. Or is Dr Woodward conceding that even if they did test their products properly most would fail? He also says some odd things about those who criticise his scientifically weak approach.

On one matter I ought to set the record straight. It concerns HealthWatch, a charity that promotes truth and good evidence in all medicine, whether labelled “conventional” or CAM. Dr Woodward writes: “Not long ago the organisation HealthWatch used the word ‘fraud’ in one of its publications in connection with CAM and, rightly, heavy libel damages had to be paid.” In fact, although he does not say so, the case featured Dr Woodward himself (his company was fined for making unsubstantiated claims) and, although he asserts it was “not long ago”, it was way back in 1992. Moreover, it is not true that “heavy libel damages” were paid. We (rightly) apologised for incautious wording of a report. So far as I recall no libel damages were sought or paid.

Nick Ross

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10020788

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