Dispatch: Junk Science Budget Should Be Dumped

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ACSH staffers offer an honorary seat at the table to Dr. Steven Salzberg, director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Maryland, College Park, for his powerful Forbes.com piece recommending the National Institute of Health eliminate funding for two alternative medicine research centers — the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM).

As Dr. Salzberg points out, the annual collective budget of both centers exceeds $240 million, despite the fact that “not a single ‘alternative’ therapy supported by NCCAM has proven beneficial to health.”

“These two organizations use your tax dollars — and take money away from real biomedical research — to support some of the most laughable pseudoscience that you can find,” Dr. Salzberg writes. The NCCAM once spent $3.1 million to study Reiki, an “energy healing” method, and not surprisingly failed to find any evidence that it works.

Efforts by previous NIH Director Harold Varmus in 1998 to implement more stringent scientific standards on the Office of Alternative Medicine failed when Sen. Tom Harkin aided in creating NCCAM and boosted their budget — an issue that Stier has already exposed in a New York Post op-ed:

Harkin sees government scientists' refusal to validate alternative treatments as a failure not of the treatments but of the evaluation process. Had the tests been rigged, perhaps they'd have satisfied him.

Dr. Ross says that while alternative medicine should be studied, this sounds like a tragic waste of resources. “There’s research that’s goal directed with a reasonable theory to prove or disprove, and on the other hand, there’s research on magic and pseudoscience.”