George Lewith

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George Lewith
Born(1950-01-12)12 January 1950
Died17 March 2017(2017-03-17) (aged 67)
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge,
Westminster Medical School
Known forCAM research and advocacy.
Scientific career
FieldsComplementary medicine
InstitutionsUniversity of Southampton,
University of Westminster

George Lewith (12 January 1950 – 17 March 2017) was a professor at the University of Southampton researching alternative medicine and a practitioner of complementary medicine. He was a prominent and sometimes controversial advocate of complementary medicine in the UK.

Education and career[edit]

Lewith graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in medicine and biochemistry.[citation needed] He then went on to Westminster Medical School to complete his clinical studies and began working clinically in 1974. In 1977 Lewith became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.[1] Then, in 1980, he became a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and, later in 1999, was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

At the time of his death, he was a Professor of Health Research in the Department of Primary Care at the University of Southampton[2] and a director of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research.[3] Lewith obtained a significant number of institutional peer reviewed fellowships at doctoral and post-doctoral level[citation needed] and was principal investigator or collaborator in research grants totally over £5 million during the last decade.[4][self-published source?]

Between 1980 and 2010, Lewith was a partner at the Centre for Complementary and Integrated Medicine, a private practice providing complementary treatments with clinics in London and Southampton.[2][5]


Lewith's research has ranged across several areas of complementary medicine. This has involved examining how complementary techniques might be investigated[6] and the development of new research methodology to evaluate complementary techniques,[7] as well as the collection of primary research data concerning a variety of complementary techniques. His primary research has included examinations of the clinical effects of acupuncture and possible acupuncture mechanisms,[8] the effects of distant and present healing,[9] the clinical effects of homoeopathy,[10] the effects and activity of herbal medicine,[11] the clinical effects of the Alexander technique[12] and the use and effectiveness of a variety of nutritional supplements[13] and herbs.[14] Lewith has also co-authored several studies indicating a lack of specific efficacy in some complementary therapies and techniques.[15][16]

He has also investigated how and why people use complementary medicine and is currently involved in two major EU projects. One looking at the use, delivery and possible future research strategies of complementary medicine in Europe[17] and another relating to the use and investigation of Chinese herbal medicines within a European context.[18]

In his career, Lewith has published over 330 peer-reviewed publications,[19] authored several books and contributed to several others.

Broadcasting, advocacy and controversy[edit]

Lewith was a council member[20] of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine and later a foundation fellow[21][22] of the Prince of Wales' Foundation for Integrated Health, a controversial[23][24] charity that promoted complementary medicine and has since closed.[25] The Foundation for Integrated Medicine became the Prince of Wales' Foundation for Integrated Health in 2000.[26] In an article, Lewith described his research unit at the University of Southampton as having played an important role in the development of the foundation, with especial regard to its research and development agenda.[27]

In 1997, Lewith presented a documentary series examining complementary medicine for Channel 4 called Natural Born Healers.[28] The series won a Royal Television Society award for its programme on herbalism.[29] However, the series also drew criticism from Dr. Peter May and colleagues at the Grove Medical Practice in Southampton, who had cooperated with the programme, in a complaint to HealthWatch.[30] A book of the same title as the documentary series and co-authored by Lewith accompanied the series.[31]

In 2004 he participated in a radio series presented by Anna Ford about complementary medicine co-produced by BBC Radio 4 and the Open University, titled The Other Medicine.[32][33]

A 2006 BBC documentary series, Alternative Medicine, was criticised by several people, including Lewith, in the Guardian over a controversial sequence in which acupuncture appeared to be used as a replacement for general anaesthesia during open heart surgery.[34] Lewith had participated in the series as an advisor, but criticised the programme for inappropriate sensationalism and poor interpretation of science.

In criticisms published in the British Medical Journal, both Jane Cassidy and David Colquhoun criticise Lewith, claiming that he prescribes homoeopathy despite having written papers that conclude it doesn't work.[35][36] Lewith has conducted research suggesting that the homeopathic remedy has no effect,[37][38] and other research suggesting that, while the homeopathic medicine itself does not appear to have an effect, the homeopathic consultation has a clinically relevant non-specific effect.[10]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Selected papers
Selected books
  • The Acupuncture Treatment of Internal Disease: An Introduction to the Use of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in the Treatment of Some Common Internal Diseases. Thorsons Publishers 1985. ISBN 978-0-7225-1103-9.
  • Alternative Therapies: A Guide to Complementary Medicine for the Health Professional. Heinemann, 1985. ISBN 978-0-433-19270-1.
  • Modern Chinese Acupuncture: A Review of Acupuncture Techniques as Practiced in China Today (with N. R. Lewith). Merlin Press, 1994. ISBN 978-1-85425-088-9.
  • Acupuncture: Its Place in Western Medical Science. Merlin Press, 1998. ISBN 978-1-85425-091-9.
  • Understanding Complementary Medicine. Family Doctor Publications, 2004. ISBN 978-1-903474-05-1.


  1. ^ "Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom: Members elected March 1977". British Medical Journal. 1 (6066): 980. 9 April 2007. PMC 1605759.
  2. ^ a b "University of Southampton: George Lewith Profile". University of Southampton. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  3. ^ "ISCMR: Board of Directors". International Society for Complementary Medicine Research. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Richard Tomkins (23 May 2009). "Is a degree in homeopathy a sick joke?". Financial Times.
  6. ^ Lewith, George T.; Machin, David (1983). "On the evaluation of the clinical effects of acupuncture". Pain. 16 (2): 111–127. doi:10.1016/0304-3959(83)90202-6. PMID 6348651.
  7. ^ Verhoef, MJ; Lewith G; Ritenbaugh C; et al. (September 2005). "Complementary and alternative medicine whole systems research: beyond identification of inadequacies of the RCT". Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 13 (3): 206–12. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2005.05.001. PMID 16150375.
  8. ^ White, P; Lewith G; Prescott P; Conway J (December 2004). "Acupuncture versus placebo for the treatment of chronic mechanical neck pain: a randomized, controlled trial". Annals of Internal Medicine. 141 (12): 911–9. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-141-12-200412210-00007. PMID 15611488.
  9. ^ Walach, H; Bosch, H; Lewith G; et al. (2008). "Effectiveness of distant healing for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a randomised controlled partially blinded trial (EUHEALS)" (PDF). Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 77 (3): 158–66. doi:10.1159/000116609. PMID 18277062.
  10. ^ a b Brien, SB; Lachance, L; Prescott, P; et al. (June 2011). "Homeopathy has clinical benefits in rheumatoid arthritis patients which are attributable to the consultation process not the homeopathic remedy. A randomised controlled clinical trial". Rheumatology. 50 (6): 1070–82. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/keq234. PMC 3093927. PMID 21076131.
  11. ^ Chen, S; Flower A; Ritchie A; et al. (May 2010). "Oral Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) as an adjuvant treatment during chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer: A systematic review". Lung Cancer. 68 (2): 137–45. doi:10.1016/j.lungcan.2009.11.008. PMID 20015572.
  12. ^ Little, P; Lewith G; Webley F; et al. (August 2008). "Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain". BMJ. 337: a884. doi:10.1136/bmj.a884. PMC 3272681. PMID 18713809.
  13. ^ Brien, S; Prescott P; Coghlan B; et al. (January 2008). "Systematic review of the nutritional supplement Perna Canaliculus (green-lipped mussel) in the treatment of osteoarthritis". QJM. 101 (3): 167–179. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcm108. PMID 18222988.
  14. ^ Flower, A; Lewith G; Little P (March 2011). "Combining rigour with relevance: a novel methodology for testing Chinese herbal medicine". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 134 (2): 373–8. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.12.025. PMID 21187138.
  15. ^ Lewith, GT; Prescott, P; Davis, CL (2004). "Can a standardized acupuncture technique palliate disabling breathlessness: a single-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study". Chest. 125 (5): 1783–1790. doi:10.1378/chest.125.5.1783. PMID 15136391.
  16. ^ Lewith, GT; Watkins, AD; Hyland, ME; et al. (March 2002). "(March 2002). [ "Use of ultramolecular potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust mite: double blind randomised controlled clinical trial"]". BMJ. 324 (7336): 520. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7336.520. PMC 67767. PMID 11872551. External link in |title= (help)
  17. ^ "CAMbrella – Communication Platform on topics related to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Europe". 3 January 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine". Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  19. ^ "University of Southampton: George Lewith profile". Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  20. ^ Rouse, Rose (23 February 1999). "Prescribing the good life". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  21. ^ "Foundation of Integrated Health: Foundation Fellows". Foundation for Integrated Health. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  22. ^ Ian Sample (2 August 2010). "College of Medicine born from ashes of Prince Charles's holistic health charity". The Guardian.
  23. ^ Booth, Robert (19 March 2010). "Prince Charles health charity accused of vendetta against critic". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  24. ^ Booth, Robert (27 April 2010). "Arrests prompt questions about oversight of Prince's charities". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  25. ^ "Prince of Wales's charity shut down after official arrested". The Telegraph. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  26. ^ Lewith, G; Verhoef M; Koithan M; Zick SM (June 2006). "Developing CAM Research Capacity for Complementary Medicine". Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 3 (2): 283–9. doi:10.1093/ecam/nel007. PMC 1475932. PMID 16786061.
  27. ^ Lewith, George (January 2005). "Complementary Medicine Research Unit" (PDF). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2 (3): 399–407. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh109. PMC 1193549. PMID 16136220.
  28. ^ "Filmography: Lewith, George". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  29. ^ "Educational Television Awards 1997: Personal Education". Royal Television Society. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  30. ^ "Doctors in controversy over 'natural born healers'". HealthWatch. Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  31. ^ George Lewith, Elisabeth Wilson (1997). Natural Born Healers: How to Find the Best Complementary Health Treatments for You and Your Family. London: Collins & Brown. ISBN 978-1-85585-446-8.
  32. ^ "Science: The Other Medicine". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  33. ^ Nobis, Gabi (5 October 2004). "A good dose of the other medicine". The Independent. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  34. ^ Singh, Simon (25 March 2006). "A groundbreaking experiment ... or a sensationalised TV stunt?". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  35. ^ Jane Cassidy (15 June 2011). "The College of Medicine". BMJ. 342: d3712. doi:10.1136/bmj.d3712. PMID 21677014. S2CID 43503007.
  36. ^ David Colquhoun (12 July 2011). "The College of Medicine is Prince's Foundation reincarnated" (PDF). BMJ. 343: d4368. doi:10.1136/bmj.d4368. PMID 21750061.
  37. ^ Lewith, GT; Watkins AD; Hyland ME; et al. (March 2002). "Use of ultramolecular potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust mite: double blind randomised controlled clinical trial". BMJ. 324 (7336): 520. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7336.520. PMC 67767. PMID 11872551.
  38. ^ Brien, Sarah; Lewith, George; Bryant, Trevor (August 2003). "Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C". British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 56 (5): 562–568. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2003.01900.x. PMC 1884394. PMID 14651731.

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