Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Even as many complementary and alternative medical therapies approach acceptance in mainstream medicine, critics are heating up and continuing the debate about not only the methods, but the government agency that supports research into them. According to many critics, the NCCAM isnt interested in seriously studying alternative medicine to debunk or prove the claims of proponents. Rather, the agency is dangerously biased in favor of alternative treatments to the point of neglecting to inform the public of dangers of some of the therapies that are often recommended.

Gullible Congressmen

Based on some of these claims, many scientists take NCCAM funded studies with a grain of salt. The NCCAM, they say, was founded because a pair of ‘gullible Congressmen believed that their own medical conditions had been healed through alternative treatments. Theres a curiously circular reasoning to all of this the Center is funded in part to provide for research into therapies that are outside the mainstream, and to inform the public on those therapies. Part of the reasoning for this was the contention that research results were often suppressed by the conventional medical community.

Interestingly, some of the most vocal critics point out that most alternative medical treatments lack ‘rigorous scientific testing, including double-blind clinical trials and safety testing. At the same time, they admit that such testing is expensive, and bemoan that the government is wasting money on proving that quackery might have some basis in fact when other research is dying for need of such funding.

The Value of Studies

In fact, says one critic in The Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, such studies on many of the therapies being researched are unethical to conduct for various reason the main one cited being that they have no value because they examine claims without sufficient scientific basis. In other words, its unethical to fund research into a therapy because there are not already scientific studies that prove that it is most likely effective.

The author, Kimball C. Atwood IV, goes on to state that the NCCAM has yet to declare any CAM therapy studied as useless, and often fails to present warnings that some therapies are dangerous yet a very quick tour through the current NCCAM web site finds a section of alerts that includes a consumer alert that Echinacea, the darling of the herbal therapy proponents, is ineffective in preventing upper respiratory infections.

In addition, the section on St. Johns Wort an herb specifically mentioned by the article as lacking warnings about the dangers lists half a dozen medicines that interact with St. Johns Wort, including those used for treating HIV and treating depression, and warns that the herb should not be taken without discussing it with your medical practitioner.

In a nutshell while the NCCAM may have a bias toward illuminating and providing information about alternative therapies, this bias is there by design to combat the bias AGAINST those therapies in the conventional medical world. When researching various types of complementary and alternative medicines, evaluate everything you read carefully. Remember, its your body and your health. Know how what you put into the first will affect the latter.