'Criminal' homeopathy kills Steve Jobs,
says alternative medicine expert Edzard Ernst
ALTERNATIVE medicine is unethical, criminal and likely contributed to the death of Apple boss Steve Jobs, visiting professor Edzard Ernst says.
The world's first professor of complementary medicine was in Adelaide yesterday to speak at the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association conference at UniSA.
Famous for causing an uproar when, in July, he labelled Prince Charles a "snake oil salesman" for his dandelion and detox remedy, Prof Ernst yesterday spoke of the dangers of unproven complementary medicine.
"They mislead people to the point of being quite dangerous, all of this is idiotic rubbish," he said, calling for more rigorous testing of claims.
"Australia is one of the highest user groups globally. About 50 per cent of the general population use some form of complementary medicine."
While he supports evidence-based complementary medicines such as St John's wort, Prof Ernst took aim at homeopathy, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, Bach flower remedies and magnetic therapies.
He said the plethora of misinformation about homeopathy - which treats "like with like" through the dilution of elements - had contributed to deaths, likely including that of Mr Jobs, who died from pancreatic cancer in October.
In his biography of the Apple founder, Walter Isaacson details Jobs' regrets that he turned to alternative therapies when first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003.
"I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way,” Jobs told Isaacson.
Prof Ernst said too many people were similarly relying on "unproven treatments" for fatal diseases.
"Homeopathy is totally under-investigated," he said. "Look at Steve Jobs' cancer death, which is totally tragic."
The problem, he said, was the "monstrous" amount of available misinformation and a lack of regulation and clinical testing.
"They should be tested in exactly the same way which we test any other treatment," he said. "There's only one science and there is no alternative to science."
Professor Ernst said claims that these therapies worked, made without proof, were "irresponsible and criminal".
He said the science did support specific therapies which were backed by evidence, such as St John's wort.
The professor was this year forced into an early retirement from Exeter University, where he set up the Complementary Medicine and Rehabilitation Department in 1993, after an earlier stoush with the Prince over a confidential report.
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