National Institute of Quackery?

October 18, 2002

In 1998 the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine succeeded the Office of Alternative Medicine created in 1992. The former office -- operating on budget of a few million dollars a year -- failed to come up with any new and effective treatments, but it was elevated into the national center and handed what has now grown to $113 million a year.

  • The office was the brainchild of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health -- who also became a devout believer in alternative medicine when he sought relief from his allergies by taking massive doses of bee pollen.
  • The center's $113 million is being put into studies which are either biologically implausible or have been useless in previous studies, critics explain.
  • Among those are homeopathy, the use of shark cartilage to cure cancer and magnet therapy for pain.
  • Another therapy is called Therapeutic Touch which promises to cure headaches and stress by a therapist waving hands around the patient until blockage of the "human energy field" -- whatever that is -- is undone .

Then there are the kumbayah remedies like art and dance therapies, guided imagery and massage -- along with efforts to measure the effects of prayer on brain cancer.

Source: Sally Satel (American Enterprise Institute), "Kumbayah Medicine," Forbes, October 28, 2002.

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