Saturday, March 21, 2009

Call to Shut Down America's Only Research Center for Alternative Medicine

I'm concerned, and you should be as well. We are now seeing calls to stop funding the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines (NCCAM). This center has been a part of the National Institutes of Health since it was funded in 1992, and today it is the only site where "official" U.S. research is being done on alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, herbal supplements, vitamins, mineral supplements, etc.

This is just another example of our need to take sides. In one corner you find allopathic medicine, and on the other, kooks. Can't we have a dialog about the many different therapies that seem to do some good for people, especially in painful, debilitating diseases where the available pharmaceutical medicines just don't do the job? It seems to me that having a national center for this discussion is a benefit to all.

Unfortunately, NCCAM has been most effective in running trials that disprove many of these theories about complementary medicines. You might remember the large and well-published Echinacea trial which was run using the wrong dosage of the herb and which then failed -- as of course it would. Even NCCAM has people running research studies who are just not knowledgeable about their subject matter.

Despite it's inherent problems, I think that some good can come out of keeping an open mind, and an NIH with a place to put ideas about alternatives is a better NIH. Click on the headline in today's blog post to link to a Washington Post article which describes the push to de-fund the NCCAM.


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