Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scientific Research on Alternative Medicine

Source: NCCAM

The Washington Post has an article today describing a move to eliminate the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. NCCAM's budget this year is about $122 million; the National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine also has a budget of $122 million. The total NIH alternative medicine portfolio is about $300 million a year. The total NIH budget is about $29 billion.

I am no expert, but I tend to trust the NIH. A lot of medicine has roots in traditional therapy (aspirin is based on willow bark therapy, something like on-third of drugs have natural product bases). It may well be that some traditional therapies hold promise for treatments that have not been added to our current medical practice.

It may be even more important to demonstrate danger or lack of efficacy in alternative medical practices. Negative results add to our knowledge. More than that, there is a huge market for these alternative medical treatments, and those that can be demonstrated dangerous or ineffective can through such demonstrations be more effectively removed from use.

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