Save money, stop wasting funds on alternative malarkey

If alternative medicine had any evidence about it, we’d all just call it medicine. Unfortunately, most of the people within the alt-scam are good at lying. They’re good at making people think they have something to actually offer, when in reality they’re a bunch of anti-science quacks. That’s why it’s unlikely the alt-med scene is where we can start saving funds for real scientific research. But it’s also why we should be saving funds there.

This past week, President Obama called on all federal agencies to voluntarily propose budget cuts of 5%. Well, Mr. President, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a way for you to cut the National Institutes of Health budget without hurting biomedical research. In fact, it will help.

Here’s my proposal: save over $240 million per year in the NIH budget by cutting all funding for the two centers that fund alternative medicine research–the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Both of them exist primarily to promote pseudoscience. For the current year, NCCAM’s budget is $128.8 million, an amount that has rapidly grown from $2 million in 1992, despite the fact that not a single “alternative” therapy supported by NCCAM has proven beneficial to health. OCCAM’s budget was $121 million in 2008 (the latest I could find) and presumably higher in 2010. That’s over $240M, not counting money these programs got from the stimulus package (and yes, they did get some stimulus funding).

Whereas anti-science, Republican/teabagging mooks like Sarah Palin can’t see the value in fruit fly research, pseudoscientific organizations like the OCCAM and NCCAM are managing to bleed funds from worthwhile scientific research (like that done on fruit flies). And they’re doing it on some of the silliest programs imaginable.

These two organizations use our tax dollars – and take money away from real biomedical research – to support some of the most laughable pseudoscience that you can find. To take just one example, NCCAM has spent $3.1 million supporting studies of Reiki, an “energy healing” method. Energy healing is based on the unsupported claim that the human body is surrounded by an energy field, and that Reiki practitioners can manipulate this field to improve someone’s health. Not surprisingly, the $3.1 million has so far failed to produce any evidence that Reiki works. But because there was never any evidence in the first place, we should never have spent precious research dollars looking into it.

It’s all a big, ugly scam.

3 Responses

  1. What about truth-in-advertising laws? Why aren’t/can’t those be used against alternative medicines/treatments?

    There seems to be regulations that say one soap/toothpaste/phone network can not say unfair things when advertising, so why aren’t these laws used against the quack?

    An example is when the Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, was forced to stop advertising for Lipitor because it implied an endorsement.

  2. …used against the quacks.

  3. They use the words “may” and “might” a lot to avoid making any real claims.

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