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The Alternative Medicine Racket: How the Feds Fund Quacks

The NIH has spent $5.5 billion on bringing quackery—from faith healing to homeopathy—right into the heart of the American medical establishment.

Behind the dubious medical claims of Dr. Mehmet Oz and Deepak Chopra is a decades-long strategy to promote alternative medicine to the American public. Twenty-three years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began to investigate a wide variety of unconventional medical practices from around the world. Five-and-a-half billion dollars later, the NIH has found no cures for disease. But it has succeeded in bringing every kind of quackery—from faith healing to homeopathy—out of the shadows and into the heart of the American medical establishment.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a part of the NIH, is largely the brainchild of a single person. In the 1980s, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was convinced that bee pollen extract cured his hay fever. As the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing NIH funding, Harkin set aside $2 million to establish the NCCIH's forerunner, the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). Senator Harkin did not respond to multiple requests to participate in this story.

The OAM's stated mission was to investigate the medical value of alternative therapies. Despite its minuscule budget, its mandate was massive. Almost any kind of unusual therapy could be considered "alternative", spanning dozens of widely differing cultural traditions and historical eras. Everything from homeopathic remedies for arthritis to acupuncture for back pain to remote prayer for HIV/AIDS to coffee enemas for fighting cancer was in its purview.Dr. Joseph JacobsDr. Joseph Jacobs

Another looming challenge was bridging the ravine between the scientific establishment and the heterodox community of of alternative medicine practitioners. The OAM's first director, Dr. Joseph Jacobs, seemed ideally suited to this task, as he belonged to both worlds. The son of a Mohawk mother and a part-Cherokee father, Jacobs was raised on the Kahnawake Mohawk Reservation and had spent a lifetime navigating different cultures. As he recounts in his lively memoir, Mohawks on the Nile: Journey of the Warrior Spirit, Jacobs used traditional Mohawk remedies long before earning degrees from Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Yale Medical School.

But Jacobs' skill at multicultural maneuvering was no match for the OAM's politicized advisory council. The OAM's charter mandated that its 18-member advisory council be heavily weighted to favor experts and practitioners of alternative medicine. As a result, many on the council were unfamiliar with the rigors of scientific research. "Many things that seem to be effective don't stand up to scientific research but they still cure people," Rep. Berkley Bedell (D-Iowa) told the Journal of the American Medical Association, shortly after his appointment to the advisory council by Harkin in 1992. "If that's the case, then I hate to think we may squelch something by insisting it has to go through scientific investigation."

Others had incentives to validate alternative therapies that were at odds with the OAM's stated mission of impartiality and objectivity. An original member of the advisory council, Deepak Chopra benefited from the imprimatur of the NIH years before Oprah Winfrey catapulted the New Age healer to national stardom. Four members of the council personally selected by Harkin had scant medical training yet were vocal advocates for alternative medicine.

Trapped in a bureaucracy of politics and magical thinking, the science-minded Jacobs didn't last long. "Harkin and his cronies probably wanted somebody else," he tells Reason TV. "But they wanted me to do their bidding. And I really couldn't do that." Under pressure to validate dubious treatments without scientific evidence, Jacobs resigned after only two years on the job. "I prefer the ticks of Connecticut to the politics of Washington," he declared to The New York Times at the time of his departure.

With Jacobs out of the picture, the advisory council was free to pursue its own vision of the future of American medicine. Over the objections of NIH director Harold Varmus, Harkin elevated the Office of Alternative Medicine to the status of a "national center." Rechristened as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), it enjoyed independent control of a skyrocketing budget

By 2010, total yearly spending at the NIH on alternative medicine reached $521 million. The bloated budget funded long-term studies of dozens of remedies, such as shark cartilage for cancer, St. John's Wort for depression, and acupuncture for pain. At the time, a few treatments seemed to hold reasonable promise. Many others had no plausible biological mechanism behind their hoped-for effects and would have to violate fundamental laws of physics in order to work. Today, after billions spent investigating alternative treatments, no cures have been found.

Perhaps NCCIH's most significant accomplishment has been to crack open the doors of the American medical establishment, a long sought-after goal of many alternative practitioners. The University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine offers patients homeopathy. Even though NCCIH's own studies suggest that Reiki is useless, it hasn't stopped Dr. Oz from introducing the "energy medicine" to a new generation of surgeons at Columbia University, which is a major recipient of NCCIH funds. Even Harvard Medical School teaches alternative medicine.

Does it even matter? So what if patients pay a little bit more for treatments that don't work? As long as alternative therapies do no harm—premum non nocere, as the venerable medical maxim goes—and the placebo effect makes them feel a bit better, why bother opposing them? Beyond the basic question of taxpayer dollars supporting quackery, the pursuit of unproven therapies can have tragic consequences.

Following his diagnosis of a rare, treatable form of pancreatic cancer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs postponed medical treatment for nine months. Believing in the curative power of alternative medicine, Jobs tried acupuncture, bowel cleanses, herbs, and a vegan diet. Although we will never know for sure, medical experts have speculated that Jobs' faith in alternative medicine may have hastened his death.

If so, it's hardly an unusual event. Numerous reports of death and injury from alternative treatments have been documented at Whatstheharm.net. To be sure, even the best medical treatment comes with serious risks. But unlike standard medical care, the dangers associated with alternative treatments come with virtually no possibility of a health outcome better than a placebo.

Although Harkin has retired from the Senate, state support for alternative medicine seems secure. States license chiropractors while opening up the Medicaid coffers to naturopaths. Alternative medicine has been written into the Affordable Care Act, though it's uncertain how the Department of Health and Human Services will interpret the legislation. Even Hillary Clinton's medical advisor, Dr. Mark Hyman, evangelizes his own brand of alternative medicine, known as "functional medicine."

And what about that bee pollen extract that inspired Harkin to start the Office of Alternative Medicine to begin with? As with much of the rest of alternative medicine, scientific studies have long since debunked bee pollen's alleged power to minimize hay fever or any other illness. Yet as a matter of faith, people continue to buy it.  "Think about it, Harkin," Dr. Jacobs muses. "Your allergies can go away the next day when the pollen level goes down. It's just not what I'd call rigorous thinking."

Runs about 14:30.

Produced, edited, and narrated by Todd Krainin. Additional photography by Alex Manning. 

Music: Piano Song and The Rolling Hills of England by Plusplus, Aimless by Setumian, Drum Solo for Hospital Ghost by Lucas Perný, Eagle Feather by Kerri, Concerto for 2 Oboes in F Major Op9 no3 by performed Advent Chamber Orchestra, all under Creative Commons licenses. 

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  • Cbalducc||

    Steve McQueen was another famous person who died after receiving quack therapy - for mesothelioma, in his case.

  • notJoe||

    In McQueen's case correlation != causation. The alternative clowns didn't hasten his death; he was a dead man walking when sought out the quacks. I can relate to his thinking: "real" medicine offered nothing (he was considered terminal), so might as well take the long shot.

  • UCrawford||

    Yup. His laetrile use was basically McQueen hoping for a miracle. The people who gave it to him might have defrauded him, but they didn't cause him to die...he was already beyond help from real medicine at the time.

  • ||

    Ralph Moss, a member of the original advisory council at the Office of Alternative Medicine, is well known for his promotion of laetrile. Moss is depicted in the video and was strongly opposed to the rigorous scientific approach of Dr. Jacobs at the time.

  • MichaelL||

    The taxpayers want it! It is amazing what they will pursue to obtain treatment! With allopathic doctors only seeing patients for one problem at a time, and/or not listening to their problems, or passing the buck, like the wife's last doctor visit did, it is not surprising, at all!

    But, there was nothing that was good to treat mesothelioma, in the '80-s, unless the entire tumor could be removed prior to metastasis (spreading). It was not a good survival rate, as compared to some other tumors. So, McQueen's treatment failed, like all of the other chemotherapies do, most of the time!

  • SimonJester||

    You know who else spent government monies on alternative medical research?

  • VicRattlehead||

    HITLER!!!!!

  • SimonJester||

    *Buzzer* Wrong. Try again.

  • SIV||

  • DenverJ||

    The entire Ming dynasty?

  • ||

    Torquemada?

  • CPADave71||

    I should post a link to this article on facebook every time one of my friends posts about how the government is trying to "cover up these life-saving cures at the behest of Big Pharma!!!"

  • Hank Phillips||

    What's wrong with letting the individual self decide? How about we add to the LP platform something like: "And Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade." (Remember?) States that meddle less could have money voluntarily spent within their borders. This would also block to use of the Commerce Clause to justify everything from Prohibition to genocide.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    What's wrong with paying Gaia with tax dollars to cure my thetans?

  • John Galt||

    Clear!!

  • CatoTheChipper||

    There's nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong, with letting the individual decide ... with his own damned money ... and with the knowledge in advance that the course of therapy has not proven effective in rigorous clinical trials.

    I've been on a low-carb, high-fat diet that goes against everything that the NIH recommends. I've lost about 25 pounds, so I know it works for me. But I'm not charging my ObamaCare provider for it, and I'm not asking the NIH to validate its efficacy.

    What I find particularly galling is that the NIH and Congress has decided to waste $5.5 billion on this Deepak Chopra scam ... and that the publicly funded PBS does (or at least used to do) propaganda for the scam.

  • Sevo||

    "What I find particularly galling is that the NIH and Congress has decided to waste $5.5 billion on this Deepak Chopra scam ...'

    Man, I missed this!
    This is as pathetic as chasing Ehrlich's 'population bomb' BS.
    Again, 'nothing left to cut!'

  • Chip I. Alhazred||

    Hank Phillips wrote, "What's wrong with letting the individual self decide?"
    .
    I'm fine with cutting all governmental medical spending and regulation, whether it's for established medicine, or for unproven medicine, or for disproven medicine.
    .
    But I want libertarians to live long and fulfilling lives. And I want libertarians to have a little extra cash. Therapies in the disproven category thwart those goals. Therapies in the unproven category might thwart those goals. Established medicine that's based on bad research might thwart those goals.

  • onebornfree||

    What is considered "quackery" in the medical professions should be entirely up to the individual, and it is also their personal responsibility for the success or failure of any treatment for their condition they choose, surely ?

    Government funding of medical alternative therapies will only help destroy destroy those therapies, while at the same time most likely making the protected practitioners richer than they would otherwise be in the free market, no differently than it already has mostly destroyed mainstream medicine- which is now mostly a government-funded"/insured" joke.[Read "scam"].

    In my own case I have successfully used so-called "quackery" on myself and others for close to 30 years.[without a license :-) ]

    I'm over 50- I take no pharmaceuticals- have not done so for 30 years.

    My most recent success is to heal myself from detached retinas due to trauma in a car accident, without either drugs or laser surgery, and to actually reverse/shrink a cataract in one eye.

    It took me a year to get this far- the cataract is still in the process of slowly shrinking/clearing, and my overall vision continues to get noticeably clearer month by month.:-)

    So I say: "long live the quacks"! .

    Just stay away from the zombie quacks with federal "assistance" etc., plus 99.9% of the 100's of 1,000's of other licensed/insured mainstream medical zombie quacks, and their zombie hospitals.

    Regards onebornfree
    Personal Freedom consulting
    http://www.onebornfree.blogspot.com/

  • MichaelL||

    There are those of us that tried to practice, scientifically, within the allopathic system, to only have competitors use the medical boards to eliminate the competition, that we represented! Old wives tales, gossip, and non-scientific behavior is not the way that medicine should be run. And, medicine by committee has never seemed the best way to handle complex cases, either! But, that is where it is going.

    My question is "Is there an increase of elderly patients dieing in hospitals now?" Recently, I was unable to stay in my mom's room, when she was post-op. They found her, one morning, essentially dead. If I (a retired general surgeon) had been allowed to stay in the room with her, maybe the outcome would have been different! Is alternative medicine any worse?!

  • Sevo||

    "My question is "Is there an increase of elderly patients dieing in hospitals now?" Recently, I was unable to stay in my mom's room, when she was post-op. They found her, one morning, essentially dead. If I (a retired general surgeon) had been allowed to stay in the room with her, maybe the outcome would have been different! Is alternative medicine any worse?!"

    My question is why are you posting such obvious bullshit? Is it because you have nothing better?
    If you do, post it.

  • some-yahoo||

    I have practiced (on myself) alternative medicine going back ~20 years. During that time, I've cured myself of asthma, which I was told by a MD I'd have for the rest of my life. I haven't had an attack since 1996.

    I've successfully used vitamin C, echinacea, and goldenseal root for various colds and flu - even for strep throat and a bladder infection. No antibiotics here!

    I'd love to learn more about what you're doing for cataracts.

    None of this is to say I want the gov't meddling in medicine: allopathic or alternative.

  • Sevo||

    some-yahoo|9.5.15 @ 10:04AM|#
    "I have practiced (on myself) alternative medicine going back ~20 years. During that time, I've cured myself of asthma, which I was told by a MD I'd have for the rest of my life. I haven't had an attack since 1996."

    I saw a flying saucer last year, and now my arthritis is gone!

  • PaulW||

    Here is my thing:

    There are only so many symptoms that the human body can have.

    Current methodologies and clinical trials cannot find a cure for anything until they start figuring out the underlying causes on a case by case basis.

    If you have something like asthma, how many thousands of things could have caused it? If you find something that works for you and it cannot be proven to have more than the placebo effect on a study of a few thousand, it doesn't necessarily mean it isn't what your body needed. I also understand that it is not a cure for asthma in general.

    It's like with the whole ED thing. Some people have it for very different reasons. Often it is a heart issue, other times it is trauma to the penis, sometimes it is psychological. If you study a single medicine for ED, with a plethora of patients who have the symptom for very different reasons, the efficacy of your drug is not going to be that high. Of course viagra is like some miracle drug that gets almost anybody hard, so maybe not a great example, but you get what I'm saying.

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    Many others had no plausible biological mechanism behind their hoped-for effects and would have to violate fundamental laws of physics in order to work.

    So Todd Krainin is a physics expert, that's good to know.

    Most of the soft matter behaviours in biological tissue that I spend time modelling, would have been considered to violate the fundamental laws of physics a few decades ago. Now that science has some success modelling the complex ensemble behaviours of macromolecules, we can explain them quite well and simulate them on computers.

    One generation's "woo" finds its scientific models in another generation.

  • Robert||

    Also, electromagnetism does have biologic effects, some of which can be therapeutic, and I'm sure there are yet to come therapeutic discoveries from their uses. The video paints w far too broad a brush to imply that because some attempted rx turns out to be useless, all related modalities are useless as well. I studied briefly under one of the pioneers in the field using imposed electric fields, C.A.L. Bassett, and a friend of mine even in HS did an experiment showing developmental effects from fixed magnetic fields. Most attempted rx of any kind turn out to be useless, or the evidence for them remains equivocal, & that will turn out to be true in this area as well, but so what?

  • Sevo||

    Robert|9.4.15 @ 1:21PM|#
    "Also, electromagnetism does have biologic effects, some of which can be therapeutic, and I'm sure there are yet to come therapeutic discoveries from their uses."
    Cite(s) missing.

  • Sevo||

    "One generation's "woo" finds its scientific models in another generation."

    Uh, care to defend, oh, homeopathy?
    You may have found one example of changing tech which allows collection of better data, but that brush had better be pretty damn narrow.

  • SIV||

    The feds shouldn't fund medical research at all (with the exception of military medicine as it relates to the constitutional function of national defense). Why, as libertarians, should we give a shit if the money is going to quackery or not?

  • onebornfree||

    SIV said : " (with the exception of military medicine as it relates to the constitutional function of national defense)."

    Yeah, right :-).

    As Bill Bonner recently said : The Pentagon- the worlds biggest zombie:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hormeged.....0990359530

    Regards, onebornfree.

  • Sevo||

    Is that a pitch for your blog?

  • onebornfree||

    "Is that a pitch for your blog?"

    No it's a link to Bonner's book at Amazon, you doofus.

    No regards, onebornfree

  • PM||

    That was my first thought as well. Libertarianism in 2015: nitpicking about who is the most deserving recipient of public theft.

    This is the kind of shit I'd expect out of IFLscience, not Reason.

  • Sevo||

    PM|9.4.15 @ 11:52PM|#
    'That was my first thought as well. Libertarianism in 2015: nitpicking about who is the most deserving recipient of public theft.'

    I'll agree that tax money has no business here, but the difference between homeopathy and the 'germ theory' of disease is not nit picking whatsoever.

  • ||

    Oz is especially a jack ass given his background.

    For a while, I bit and tried all sorts of alternative medicines in my 20s. You know, to be 'open minded' plus not to offend girls I was dating. So I took shark cartilage, and other ointments while trying reflexology and so on. The thing I noticed was how highly diluted (sugar, water) alternative medicine were and marked up prices. It didn't take a genius to spot that. More subtle was the fact I was frustrated with my knee problems and how they 'preyed' on this. You don't need to be cut up because doctors are greedy was a particularly popular one. Yet, when I told them an ACL tear can't heal itself they would skillfully deflect and offer some ligament strengthening product.

    Needless to say, it didn't work and nor did it work for my wife who desperately tries to figure out what's going on with her severe allergies. Her brother and his wife are big believers in the alternative option and keep feeding her "ideas". I keep a close eye on that.

    In a nutshell, while some people may gain something out of this as the article notes and it may not hurt to see for yourself, my advise based on personal anecdotal experience over the years is save your money and stop listening to quacks.

  • ||

    Should be: 'alternative medicines were at marked up prices no less'.

    And 'my advice'.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    I'd include weed as an alternative medicine, and I know for a fact that cancer patients say it makes their suffering more tolerable. This isn't a personal experience, but one of a friend's wife. I used to smoke a bit of herb in my youth, well maybe more than just a bit, and her experience with the herb's palliative and appetite-enhancing effects are entirely consistent with my own.

    If the fucking NIH wanted to do something worthwhile with its bullshit National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), it would develop optimum strains and delivery methods for cannabis. Instead, its focus its attention on proving that marijuana is harmful and addictive. The links on the NCCAM website helpfully point to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

  • Robert||

    They're characterizing it as Steve Jobs' faith in alternative rx, while I think it was just that he didn't accept the risks associated w surgery. I don't think he really expected to get better, he just wanted to finish his life w/o getting operated on. Herbert Khaury similarly refused surgery for more conservative rx & died. Cures for their conditions may have been possible, but that doesn't mean the risk/benefit was attractive to them at their age.

  • RealCrankyYankee||

    If you believe Don Imus, a vegetarian diet and digestive cleansing cured his prostate cancer which may have given Jobs some encouragement, although I understand pancreatic cancer is far more deadly than prostate cancer. If I were in Jobs' shoes, I would try almost anything else beside chemo (poison!) or surgery.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    And yet Jobs gamed the system to get a new liver and then failed to complete a proven effective treatment of his very curable pancreatic cancer. So he wasted a precious liver that would probably still be in someone living today or most likely would have lived longer than he did. The definition of asshattery.

  • onebornfree||

    "The definition of asshattery."

    The overall "logic" of the article appears to be:

    "Steve Jobs died of cancer after trying "alternative" therapies, therefor "alternative" therapies are all scams [and also therefor do not deserve public funding etc., unlike "real" medicine:-) ]" .

    You gotta love it [the "logic" that is].

    How much would you bet the author went to college/university and has a degree [in whatever] .Just another over-educated/brainwashed fool, perchance?

    Regards, onebornfree.

  • Sevo||

    Robert|9.4.15 @ 1:14PM|#
    "They're characterizing it as Steve Jobs' faith in alternative rx, while I think it was just that he didn't accept the risks associated w surgery. I don't think he really expected to get better, he just wanted to finish his life w/o getting operated on.

    And I think you're making up bullshit to support an agenda.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    While my Lady had persued various "alternative" practices over the years, the three treatments that have had the most serious consequences have been from practitioners of Standard Medical Thinking. One was the idiot who prescribed her far too much steroids for far too long. I hope, some day, to be able to arrange a little discussion with THAT sonofabitch. Something artistic, but lingering. The other two were surgeons who apparently could not be bothered to do their fucking jobs and read a patient's chart; they both prescibed a post-operative pain killer that my Lady has a noted negative reaction to that could have killed her dead as Queen Ann.

    The history of quackery in the United States is a long and convoluted one ... And is not limited to those without the backing of the Medical Establishment, by any means. Don't like the nutritional advice the Medical Establishment is giving you? Do the opposite and wait a decade. You'll be avant guard.

    I guess I'm with Mencken: I think that people should make their own decisions, and that quackery helps eliminate the botched.

  • Marshall Gill||

    the three treatments that have had the most serious consequences have been from practitioners of Standard Medical Thinking

    Which makes the smug of those who sneer at "alternative" medicine even more galling.

    Medical Establishment doctors told my wife that she would never be able to have children. Her alternative medicine doctor told her that she had never had a patient who wanted to get pregnant fail to get pregnant. I have two children.

    When you think "doctor" think "government licensed". Libertarians generally don't believe much in that government piece of paper. It doesn't make you a quack but it also is no guarantee that you are not one.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The thing is, there ARE some "Alternative medicine" practices I would like to see gone. Powdered tiger bones, for example. But there are some "mainstream" articles of faith that strike me as idiotic, too. Like the firm belief, held by every nutritionist I've ever spoken to, that Bell Peppers are edible.

    To pretend that there is a bold line between Accepted Medicine and Quackery is like pretending that there is no room in the theory of Evolution for someone who holds to a religion. It isn't a reasonable position, and it doesn't appear to proceed from a reasonable position.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Oh, and I'd like somebody on the Left to explain the exact moral difference between "Chinese Traditional Medicine" (which they hate because it's mean to tigers and rhinos) and "Alternative Medicine".

    They can use as many supplementary pages as necessary.

  • macsnafu||

    Wait, wait. Bell peppers *aren't* edible? Good God, I've been putting them through my system for years, now!

  • SIV||

    I'd sooner gorge myself on a feast of bell peppers, tiger bones and rhino horns as let a speck of rapeseed oil and pea ersatz "mayo" touch my lips.

  • Malvolio||

    "Medical Establishment doctors told my wife that she would never be able to have children."

    Did they literally say that? Or did they say "extremely unlikely"? My experience with physicians is that they shy away from absolutes whenever they can.

    "Her alternative medicine doctor told her that she had never had a patient who wanted to get pregnant fail to get pregnant."

    Patently a lie on his part. You think Caitlyn Jenner could get pregnant?

  • Zunalter||

    Perhaps the stupidest reply in the thread thus far. Pedant and idiot of the highest order. Do you think that your comment somehow takes away from or invalidates Marshall's experience? Especially when you criticized his anecdotal comment with your own.

    And seriously, what sort of idiotic standard of "lie" is your last comment upholding? Have you ever heard of the word "context"? But hey, I suppose you are "technically" right with your last comment. And that is the best kind of right, isn't it?

  • Robert||

    I suppose you happen to know that Caitlyn Jenner was a pt. of that doc & wanted to get pregnant.

  • Sevo||

    "Medical Establishment doctors told my wife that she would never be able to have children. Her alternative medicine doctor told her that she had never had a patient who wanted to get pregnant fail to get pregnant. I have two children."

    What total anecdotal bullshit.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Oh, and government licensing to coerce endorsement of prohibition legislation, with an added incentive in the crushing of competitors and disbursement of boodle. Competition and competence are more than linguistically related.

  • SIV||

    The neo-prohibitionist eatdrinkpolitics is doing P.R. flack work for that fraudulent mayonnaise-counterfeiter, Hampton Creek.

    Their client list includes groups who seek to increase alcohol regulation and taxes, ban foie gras, and energy drinks. Hampton Creek is not listed as a client but Michele Simon's name comes up in nearly every press mention of their brazen attempt to foist fraudulent "food" on an unsuspecting public. She claims credit for banning 4loko too.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    She claims credit for banning 4loko too.

    That BITCH!

  • Brian||

    It's pretty ostentatious, isn't it?

    You know how many times I've heard morons explain to me, "Of course we need the government! Why, without the FDA and what not, we'd have people getting scammed by snake oil salesmen, left and right!"

    Meanwhile, the government is standardizing and licensing snake oil salesmen.

    Statism is a mythology.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    ^ DING-DING-DING. THIS IS THE WINNER.

  • GreenLantern||

    ...and, meanwhile, again, I continue to need a medical license to practice and that license is being threatened more and more not only by commission of the slightest of infractions that might qualify as "unprofessional behavior" (which undoubtedly will eventually include refusal to participate in Obamacaid), but the extension of the requirement for mandatory specialty board continuing education not only for "maintenance of (board) certification", but, also, if those boards have their way, "maintenance of licensure". So I might be deemed "unqualified" to practice by a medical board while comparable boards license all manner of practitioners who are considered competent within their fields of quackery, but then are free to practice what I now am not because their own board has decided it is now within the expanded scope of their "specialty" (as they have determined) to do so. That's not to say that their quackery should be subject to and limited by my board, it's rather to ask, given that new reality, "Why still am I?"

  • RealCrankyYankee||

    "I prefer the ticks of Connecticut to the politics of Washington," So, he'd rather get Lyme disease than deal with politicians, that says a lot.

  • DJF||

    How about the biggest government funded medical quackery, that is government dietary advice.

    The one that argued for years that eating fatty food would make you fat and that instead you should eat a diet high in whole grains and salads. This is even though when the farmers wanted to fatten up their cattle they fed it lots of whole grains and salads

  • Hank Phillips||

    There is a Mark Twain lesson in all this. In a dangerous profession I resorted to chiropractic manipulation. It delivers the cure and has for decades, and a child can understand how it works. Just as Mark Twain was trained in integrity--to not betray what he knew to be so, no matter what pressure is brought to bear--I am unfazed by the mealymouthed dissing from the same prostitute mouths that swore marijuana is addictive and LSD will deform your offspring. Lumping chiropractic in with these quack nostrums undermines Reason magazine, not chiropractic care. It does not undermine you as much as providing a platform for Satan-scolding glossolalia-spouting infiltrators, but the difference is in degree, not in kind.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Chiropractic care for out of place muscles and complaining spine? I'm there. The Chiropractic doc who asserted that he could cure my Lady's clinical depression, and another patient's lung cancer? He was a dangerous idiot, and we clear out of his practice, pronto. Our current Chiropracter's belief in aroma-therapy? I think she's in cloud-cuckoo land, but the smell makes my Lady happy, the spinal work is good, and I have some holes in my own head.

  • BearOdinson||

    This^^^ many times over. When the chiro looks at your spine with modern diagnostic tests and attempts to treat that for back pain and related issues, it can work (and I believe the research actually supports that). When the chiro starts moving his around your head(without even touching you) and tells you pomegranate juice cures athletes foot and erectile dysfunction, RUN!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    May I recommend H. L. Mencken's superb essay on Chiropractic? It's in his CRESTOMATHY. May be online too, for all I know.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    A very entertaining essay. http://www.chirobase.org/12Hx/mencken.html

    In his list of Darwin-award particulars that obtain from chiropracty, Mencken includes:

    And every time a chiropractor spits on his hands and proceeds to treat a gastric ulcer by stretching the backbone the same high end [a Darwin award] is achieved.

    We now know that procedures employed by "actual physicians" of Mencken's day were just as much quackery as those employed by chiropractors. And they did so with a "scientific consensus" that created an $8 billion per year market for FDA-approved drugs that had zero effect on the actual cause of gastric ulcers and prescribed numerous unnecessary surgeries that often resulted in the death of the patient.

    According to Nobel laureate Barry Marshall, who discovered the actual cause of gastric ulcers in the 1980s and whose findings were poorly received by actual physicians, the earlier, fallacious theories of the causes of gastric ulcers were formed with no more empirical basis than those of chiropractic. Well, he didn't put that way, but you can read it for yourself. http://www.slate.com/content/s.....right.html

  • PM||

    ...and a child can understand how it works.

    It would take a child's imagination, to be sure.

  • BearOdinson||

    As others have stated, the issue that should concern is is taxpayer funding, and as a result govt sponsoring "acceptable" treatments while forbidding "unacceptable" treatments. Other than perhaps a very low-level of safety regulation (not arguing for it, merely saying I could live with it), let the market decide. It is up to the patient to discuss the issues with the practitioner and decide. However, outright fraud should be dealt with harshly e.g. Fake medical degree, falsifying research etc.

  • Kandralla||

    Alternative medicine is by definition fraud. If it wasn't, if it held up to the scientific scrutiny of multiple independent peer reviewed studies, then it would just be called medicine.

    The only reason why Alternative Medicine is allowed to stand at all is because of willful ignorance. It's literally closing your eyes and driving off a cliff because Dr. Moneybags told you that cliffs aren't real, that they're a threat manufactured by Big Autoglass to get you to buy TOXIN CONTAINING, CANCER SCENTED windows for your car, and that you can be completely protected* by Dr. Moneybags all natural, toxin-free, magnetic therapy suppositories.

    *claim not verified by FDA, suppositories for entertainment purposes only

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    So that is where all the Neodymium Magic Jigsaw Puzzle Bead Ball Magnets went ...

  • Roscoe BoDeen||

    Yet our government is authorizing spending (thru Medicare) thousands for a FDA approved chemo treatment for a terminal brain cancer patient that produces no cure, statistically speaking.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    I think statins are the biggest racket, though. Just about all my friends and older relatives take them. I'm the only person my age that I know who doesn't regularly take medication. Well, except for daily doses of ethanol either in vineferous form or distilled spirits. It's my alternative therapy of choice, but I don't get a subsidy.

  • SIV||

    I don't take that statin shit. I don't believe in taking any medication you are supposed to take every day for the rest of your life not made from (or analogous to compunds found in) poppies unless you have a provable chronic disease and you have to just to stay alive.

  • ernieyeball||

    "Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

  • Petie Cue||

    Reason is so inconsistent on medical issues. On other issues, it is aware of the ways in which governmental regulators are inept and how governmental funding distorts the objectivity of research. Yet, when it comes to medical orthodoxy, Reason's editorial board believes that over a century of a government-enforced monopolistic cartel controlling the medical-research agenda has had no effect whatsoever on which studies get funded and which studies get published, much less which researchers receive grants and fellowships.
    Reason's name-calling ("quacks" and "quackery") is unbecoming to a publication of its title. Its use of anecdotes belies its supposed desire for scientific rigor in investigating alternative and complementary medicine. And calling a budget of $521 million (with an M) "bloated" and then lamenting that it has "found no cures" is beyond disingenuous when the NIH's research budget is $30 Billion and medical research in the US is $3 Trillion annually.

  • Sevo||

    "Reason's name-calling ("quacks" and "quackery") is unbecoming to a publication of its title."

    Looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck; "QUACK!"

  • Jerryskids||

    All I want to know is: Who the hell are all these stupid people and what are they doing on my comment board? Alternative medicine is about 95% bullshit and the 5% that ain't bullshit is probably bullshit, too. 'Chiropracty', for example, isn't the back-cracking massage that makes you feel as good as a $100 blowjob, 'chiropracty' is the theory that all the body's humors flow through your spinal tubicles (or some such nonsense) and manipulating the spine can fix everything from liver cancer to athlete's foot to an impacted wisdom tooth. And, no, it can't.

    Now the honey bee pollen on the other hand....I had really bad allergies so I went to a doctor who told me about using local honey to get my body acclimated to the allergens. I was kinda doubtful and I told the doc my allergies were bothering me really bad. He got out a quart of honey, shoved the entire mason jar up my ass and asked me if my allergies were bothering me now. Had to admit I wasn't thinking about my allergies a damn bit after the honey cure.

  • PM||

    Threadwinner.

    That having been said, the issue the article raised is public funding, and no medical research, "legitimate" (for whatever value of the term you prefer) or not, deserves to be funded by tax looting. The fact of taxpayer funding by itself is far more egregious than squandering a portion of the loot supporting quackery. Turning the focus of the conversation to who is most deserving of taxpayer largesse kind of reeks of "We have established what you are, madam. We are now merely haggling over the price."

  • ernieyeball||

    I can't wait to see the comments when Reason publishes an article critical of Astrology.
    How about it Bailey?

  • SIV||

    I'd like to see a total takedown of "neuro-science". I should shop them a proposal.

  • Sevo||

    Nothing left to cut.

  • John Galt||

    There's nothing afflicting us that peyote can't cure. Well, everything except for the clap.

  • MarioSmario||

    And of course the MSM loves the stories of "alternative" healing and will promote the bull until the next snake oil appears around the corner. Are only hope is to encourage people to begin to question everything.

  • Bischkva||

    You have no idea how small $5.5 billion over 23 years is in this context. Barely a rounding error in the NIH budget, or for the R&D budgets of big pharma.

    You also know nothing about the standards used to approve drugs. Very few marketed drugs are "cures" for anything. At best they help manage a condition. Often they do nothing. And they actually kill about 160,000 Americans per year through inappropriate use, misuse, overdosage, drug-drug interactions, or outright medical errors.

    That $5.5 billion has improved our understanding of alternative treatments, mostly supplements. The money has helped to fund sorely needed clinical studies. And more than you'd like to believe, those studies have shown that some supplements -- the basis of native culture medicine -- actually work as advertised with few or no side effects.

  • Sorgfelt||

    You seem to have disregarded the racket of the AMA and FDA and pharmaceutical companies, which I won't go into, as there are tons of articles on the matter.

    Some or many of these alternative therapies don't work well or at all, but some promise results without the very troublesome side effects of mainstream medicine. That is one reason for the NIH sponsoring legitimate research into them. Presently, I am taking certain supplements that have proven to work for me without the dangerous side effects of my doctor's prescriptions, which I have stopped as a result. I have stopped and started these supplements a few times to verify that they work and that it isn't something else. My own cancer doctor recommended reviewing pubmed for research, and it has been very helpful. It is also one reason that I stopped seeing him too, because what he offered is no longer effective or necessary.

    I respect much of what I see on Reason, but this article smacks of establishment bullshit.

  • Win Bear||

    It's deliciously ironic for someone to complain about "establishment bullshit" while at the same time lauding the NIH for looking into alternative medicine.

  • Sevo||

    Win Bear|9.5.15 @ 5:19PM|#
    "It's deliciously ironic for someone to complain about "establishment bullshit" while at the same time lauding the NIH for looking into alternative medicine."

    Yep, shame on those who accept evidence when the gov't supports it instead of my bullshit when the gov't doesn't support it!
    They must be, uh, something!

  • Win Bear||

    They must be, uh, something!

    "Hypocritical" is the word you are looking for. (You, however just seem "incoherent" today.)

  • onebornfree||

    " this article smacks of establishment bullshit."

    Congrats, somebody else noticed :-).

    Regards, onebornfree.

  • Sevo||

    "Congrats, somebody else noticed :-)."
    Bullshit.

  • Aloysious||

    It's after reading articles like this, when the absolute folly of believing in magic is on full display, that I start to agree with religious fundamentalists and start believing we are in the end times.

    Which requires that I punch myself in the junk.

    Magical thinking. Ugh.

  • onebornfree||

    The irony is that most [99%?] "alternative healthcare" practitioners are foaming-at-the-mouth statists [ of the "left " wing variety], who ardently push for more government recognition [read insurance and control] of their own particular methodology, be it chiropractic, homeopathic, herbalist, or whatever.

    It's ironic because these particular statist dunderheads are too , well, dunderheaded, to understand that the increased governmental permissions/ approval etc that they all so ardently and stupidly crave will actually slowly destroy their very own practices; just as it has caused the almost complete destruction and "zombification" [as Bill Bonner put it] of the rest of the "mainstream" healthcare industry.

    So, may the "zombification" of health and wellness alternatives continue!

    Bring it on, dunderheads [there's always the black market to supply real health care needs, when I have any :-) ]

    Regards, onebornfree

  • Win Bear||

    Does it even matter? So what if patients pay a little bit more for treatments that don't work?

    Why beat up on "alternative medicine"? Even mainstream medicine wastes lots of money on things that don't have a demonstrable benefit or even cause harm: new patented drugs when cheap generic drugs would work, unnecessary tests to cover the physician's ass, etc. And that's on top of a lot of drugs and treatments for conditions that would be far better addressed (or avoided) by lifestyle changes.

    The problem is that when costs are socialized, nobody really cares about waste like that; since people are forced to pay for other people's crap no matter what, they want to extract the maximum amount of money from the system that they can.

    Alternative medicine is just a small symptom of this problem, and financially negligible compared to the massive waste that occurs daily in the practice of mainstream medicine.

  • ||

    While I go to a nutritionist and reflexologist who has helped me a lot, I think it's wasteful for government to sink funding into any cures, let alone the vast field of holistic health. It is filled with wackos and statists, like everybody suggests. Just like religion or choosing a career, a person's health is a personal journey and shouldn't be sponsored by the government.

  • riak||

    As several people have already pointed out, the problem isn't the 'what' - the problem is the 'how', and that is using other people's money.

    I check out veterinary medicine. Ages ago, our cats' veterinarian recommended glucosamine-chondroitin - quackery, right? I asked about its efficacy. Veterinary medicine trials show that glucosamine-chondroitin is good for 4-legged creatures' knees, does nothing for hips, and the spine is "inconclusive".

    Years later, our other cat was referred to for PT for multiple areas of arthritis. The specialist vet recommended laser therapy. I looked for animal studies. In the bunnies tortured for the purposes of determining efficacy, laser therapy apparently accelerated and maximized healing. Yep, our cat is much better.

    How well or how does either therapy work in a human? No idea, but animals don't have a placebo effect.

    As my elderly mother found out in the boonies of '90s Russia, our "scientific" practitioners have forgotten the "art of medicine". A Russian backwoods doctor figured out with only a stethoscope and from my mother's complexion and nails that she a) needed heavy duty antibiotics for a severe upper respiratory infection, b) a tripling of her potassium pill and c) a doubling of her cardiac medication - all confirmed by lab work by her doctor (whom she had seen before getting on the plane to Russia) in the States upon her return (once she was well enough to travel).

    Alternative or not, quacks abound.

  • Chip I. Alhazred||

    riak said "...animals don't have a placebo effect."
    .
    There are many placebo effects. Some can interact with animal research.
    .
    https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ is-there-a-placebo-effect-for-animals/
    (I had to split the link)
    .
    Placebo effects are "effects from treatment that do not depend on the treatment itself. Such factors include knowing one is receiving a treatment, attention from health care professionals, and the expectations of a treatment's effectiveness by those running the research study." (Wikipedia: placebo controlled study) All three of those can happen in a study on an animal.
    .
    Look up "der Kluge Hans" on wikipedia. An animal was why placebo-controlled double-blinded tests are good tests.

  • riak||

    From the link: "This could certainly serve as reasonable explanations for purported placebo effects in animals. Nevertheless, the hypothesis that a healing or therapeutic effect can be dependably provoked as a result of conditioning cannot be supported at this time by any evidence."

    The article goes on in the exploratory vein, and none of it explains why animals raised in lab cages, where there joints are intentionally injured would respond to an additive put in their food or an instrument pointed at them by a lab tech.

    And the link notes the fear of vets shown by dogs; cats are even more consistently upset since most resent being put in a box against their will. The other potential sources of placebo effects in animals focus on "soothing" (not present in a food additive or in our laser-treated cat) or via owner attitude (our attitude is "we'll see" - the additive was for an ankle, so no reliable info there, and the bunnies' trial was for new joint injuries, not the longstanding spinal arthritis in our other cat who doesn't get in his carrier willingly and refuses to come out of it at the PT vet, hiding in the closet for 2 days afterward - he does not find it soothing; yet, he actually tried jumping for the first time in years).

    So, the link - and my observations - agree: there is potential but no body of evidence for a placebo effect in animals.

  • riak||

    laser therapy in lab rabbits in Korea: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15523898

    administration of glucosamine in lab rats in Japan: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20188111

    Somehow, I doubt conditioning, soothing or "ownership" syndrome played a role in the results.

    Now, some might argue that much like people here argue that Big Pharma is behind the medical establishment's rejection of the concept of chronic Lyme Disease (which makes no sense - Big Pharma would come up with a drug for them!), the Koreans wanted the bunnies to be better because they were funded by a laser company or the Japanese rat study was funded by a glucosamine supplement producer.

    That may be.

  • Chip I. Alhazred||

    Riak said that animals don't have a placebo effect.
    .
    I gave three reasons why that is questionable or unlikely, deliberately including a link which paints a mixed picture.
    .
    Riak gave a link to a study done on rabbits, and a link to a study done on rats. In both cases, loving or sympathetic researchers are somewhat unlikely to impress the animals by their loving care, thus a "soothing effect" placebo seems reasonable to rule out.
    .
    The only mention of placebo in the rabbit study was in a footnote about another study. According to the abstract of the rat study, researchers divided their study population into 3 parts, one of which received sham treatment. It isn't completely clear (the rat study cost $$ to read the full study) but it seems reasonable to conclude that the people conducting that study believer that including a placebo is important element of conducting a good study.
    .
    Other situations contributing to placebo effects:
    Regression to the mean (unusual circumstances have a tendency to move back toward average). This would apply to rabbits and rats and even carrots.
    .
    continued

  • Chip I. Alhazred||

    Researcher bias in the case of an insufficiently blinded study. (researcher innocently stops researching when the result she wants appears.) This would apply to rabbits & rats & even minerals.
    .
    Researchers failing to publish a study with negative results. Maybe because it's too boring or journals aren't interested in negative results. Or maybe even the discouraged researcher didn't try to publish because the results contradicted her hoped-for result. That would leave an appearance of more studies showing a positive effect of the placebo, even if there were no real effect. This would apply to studies on rabbits & rats & even minerals.
    .
    There are a few other means for placebo effects to happen that I can't remember.
    .
    So while you've pretty nearly ruled out a few of the placebo effects (in those studies, & studies like them), you haven't ruled out all placebo effects. Do you take "placebo effect" to mean "unwitting self deception on the part of the recipient because he expects the cure to work." Or perhaps you "placebo effect" to mean "the mind's power to generate a real cure." Or perhaps you mean, a' la Mark Crislip, that there is no such thing as a placebo effect at all, and since humans are animals too, animals don't have a placebo effect. Or likely you mean something different than any of those.
    .
    So Riak, instead of me guessing what you mean, I'll come right out and ask you. What is a placebo effect? What is a likely means for a placebo effect to happen?

  • Win Bear||

    As my elderly mother found out in the boonies of '90s Russia, our "scientific" practitioners have forgotten the "art of medicine"

    No, they haven't. They have simply discovered the profit-making potential of excessive testing and unnecessarily costly treatments under a medical system that socializes their payments.

  • riak||

    As noted in my original comment, my mother saw her scientific quack just before leaving. She collapsed in Russia a couple of days into her trip. She was sent for lab work after her return, not before (which might have prevented the collapse while in Russia's hinterland).

    The little old lady country doctor took about 5 minutes to diagnose and prescribe; again, the lab work merely confirmed that she knew her stuff (one of the benefits of being a little old lady country doctor in Russia in the '90s is that you spent your life trying to cure people of illnesses for which you had no access to lab equipment).

  • LauraR||

    Wow, you people have a lot of bias. That's the whole point of science, to look at things WITHOUT bias. You'd think all of you would be HAPPY that none of these studies panned out. That's valuable, too. Negative results are frequently underrepresented, but they are important in creating an accurate picture of what works and what doesn't. So, now you guys have MORE ammunition to discredit alternative medicine! When so many people are turning to alternative medicine, it is the government's responsibility to evaluate the effectiveness of those treatments. Thank goodness, they were open-minded enough to do so, and to provide people with information that can save them from wasting their time!

  • Sevo||

    LauraR|9.5.15 @ 7:58PM|#
    "...When so many people are turning to alternative medicine, it is the government's responsibility to evaluate the effectiveness of those treatments."
    No, it's not.

    "Thank goodness, they were open-minded enough to do so, and to provide people with information that can save them from wasting their time!"
    Maybe, but why are they using my tax dollars to do what is easily accomplished otherwise, while lending at least a halo of gov't 'approval' to quacks.
    Sorry, this needs to be shut down now.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    That's the whole point of science, to look at things WITHOUT bias.

    Actually, science does have two biases. First, it is materialistic: science is strongly biased against mystical explanations for natural phenomenon. Second, science presumes that the fundamental laws of nature are constant. Once a hypothesis is definitively disproven, science is forever biased against it. I am confident that science will never again engage in research to prove Ptolemy's theories of astronomy as an alternative to Copernicus. For the same reason, genuinely scientific inquiry is properly biased with respect to the efficacy of voodoo rituals, magical energy fields from therapeutic touch, qi, vitalism, faith healers, homeopathy, and such. Practitioners of such quackery should be free to do so providing that their customers acknowledge that they understand that such quackery has no demonstrated efficacy to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Other than requiring such disclosure, the government should butt out, neither prohibiting such nonsense nor validating it as an alternative therapy.

  • LauraR||

    I'll buy that for physics, but medicine is not so clear-cut. The use of leeches was considered barbaric and primitive, until doctors figured out they could be useful in keeping blood from coagulating in surgically reattached fingers and toes. Conversely, episiotomies were considered standard care for most women giving birth vaginally: in the 1990's 90% of women got them, now they are rarely done. And look at the field of epigenetics. Seems like that idiot Lamarck wasn't such an idiot after all now, doesn't it? Also, research in the gut microbiome is revealing that our diets impact disease far more than mainstream medicine ever realized. What is really dangerous is to think we have everything all figured out, and to shut our minds to EVIDENCE that points in any other direction.

  • GeneDoc||

    Great report. Thanks for this. As an NIH-funded scientist, it's very painful to see this level of waste. Half a f**king billion dollars a year is not chump change. That's 1500 research grants worth of $$. Shameful and typical.

  • ||

    Thanks, GeneDoc. In producing this video, I've learned that criticism of alternative medicine research at NIH has been muted over the years because medical researchers have been afraid to speak out. They know that funding quackery is a waste of money. But they rely on NIH research grants for their work and they don't want to jeopardize their careers. I'm curious if you were aware of this issue and whether you've met anyone there who has criticized NCCIH funding.

  • shahine8787||

    Wow, you people have a lot of bias. That's the whole point of science, to look at things WITHOUT bias. You'd think all of you would be HAPPY that none of these studies panned out. That's valuable, too. Negative results are frequently underrepresented, but they are important in creating an accurate picture of what works and what doesn't. So, now you guys have MORE ammunition to discredit alternative medicine! When so many people are turning to alternative medicine, it is the government's responsibility to evaluate the effectiveness of those treatments. Thank goodness, they were open-minded enough to do so, and to provide people with information that can save them from wasting their time!

    شركة مكافحة حشرات بمكة

  • ||

    Your point is well taken, shahine8787. But here's the problem with that line of thinking. Many of the treatments investigated by NCCIH have no plausible underlying biological mechanism of efficacy. That's a fancy way of saying it would require a violation of fundamental principles of science in order for treatments to work. So even without spending a dime on research, we can have a high degree of confidence that faith healing and reiki don't work. The money would be much better spent on research that is plausible, not based on superstition and has a real chance of successfully treating disease.

  • gordo53||

    If this was just more governmental waste and medical quackery, it would be bad enough, but it is so much more. Inside the beltway, the term for government waste is always the same. It is FUNDRAISING. There can be no doubt that many of the recipients of this funding are playing the game and kicking back a chunk to their Washington benefactors. From time to time, we see published accounts of government waste. Most of it is deliberate fraud. Senators and Representatives are all assigned a fundraising quota. It is a practical impossibility to fulfill said quotas with traditional, legal methods. It has been said by more than a few in government that you could spend 8 hours a day, every day on the phone begging for money and not cover your quota. That's why there are hundreds if not thousands of clever, illegal schemes to fraudulently suck money out of government appropriations.

    Want to help stop it? Quit voting for incumbents. In primary elections, don't vote for party endorsed candidates. If you are consistently voting for "winners", you are just contributing to the criminal enterprise that is our government.

  • Duelles||

    Not much of an alternative to double blind cross over studies, unless you in Congress. Sigh!

  • Ambler||

    Mixing politics with medicine has all the drawbacks you'd expect, whether you're talking about "approved" or alternative therapies. However, the uselessness of alternatives that Krainin presents is not quite as cut-and-dried as he indicates. The ifs, ands, and buts are too numerous and complex to deal with here, but Google: Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical, and other established sites if you're interested in getting a complete picture.

  • bluecanarybythelightswitch||

    How about people try what they want and trust whom they find trustworthy and if it works for them, great, and if not they go elsewhere - and the government can stay the fuck out of it.

  • sctrbrn||

    Dear Todd,

    What a great piece! You should have seen yourself flailing away with that little hatchet of yours at anything and everything in your path! It was a thing of beauty! (You did get a little wild there at one point - glad we weren't standing anywhere nearby lol.)

    Anyway, check's in the mail. Much love!

    kiss kiss,
    Big Pharma

  • ||

    I laughed. (Still waiting for that check, though.)

  • shortcircuit4||

    Similarly in the UK the NHS funds homeopathy and such nonsense. The Monarchy are also in on it.

  • LauraR||

    "So what if patients pay a little bit more for treatments that don't work? As long as alternative therapies do no harm—premum non nocere, as the venerable medical maxim goes—and the placebo effect makes them feel a bit better, why bother opposing them? Beyond the basic question of taxpayer dollars supporting quackery, the pursuit of unproven therapies can have tragic consequences."
    Exactly. Which is why is NOT a waste of money to scientifically test the procedures and substances that many people are putting their trust in. Many times it is the most desperate people who are attracted to alternative medicine. If the government can tell people what does, and does not work, it could save suffering people a lot of pain and wasted time and money.
    Also, if conventional medicine was doing a better job, many people would not be turning to alternative medicine. I had 4 family members die of cancer, all of whom used entirely mainstream medical care. Three of them went within 9 months of diagnosis, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on treatment seemed to buy them very little time. Hard to see how "alternative" medicine could do much worse.

  • cb||

    Why do people seek out alternative remedies and treatments? Largely because traditional western medicine has failed them, pharmaceutical companies have poisoned them, and there seems to be little hope, save treatments that are nearly bad as death itself. Not to mention that doctors and the hospitals they haunt are the 3rd leading cause of death in America. Yes, it's true: 1) Heart Disease, 2) Cancer, 3) Doctors & Hospitals. Doesn't engender much trust. Makes you think maybe they're the real quacks. (Oh, they call it "medical mistakes" in an effort to disguise who is actually making the mistakes.)

  • Choadintheroad||

    What a load of shit this is. To lump in "Doctors and Hospitals" as number 3 does, implies that you're talking about medical malpractice. Hell, your comment about 'mistakes' pretty much tates it. But the fact is that most of those 'Hospital' deaths are people with compromised immune systems picking up illness in hospital. You, sir ar a liar and a piece of shit.

  • caseym54||

    That Jobs used acupuncture or chiropractic for his cancer implies nothing more than Jobs was an idiot. To publish such drivel in "Reason" implies that Reason's editors are bereft of same.

    I ask you: if Jobs tried antibiotics, or podiatry or hang-gliding for his cancer, what would that have to do with ANY of them.

  • notforsale||

    Sounds a cancer has spread into the core DNA of Reason (freedom and liberty to choose).

    Remember that people vote with their dollars, and that's one of the reason why there are more funding for CAM research (complimentary and alternative medicine). CAM is a direct competition to Big-Pharma, and unfortunately Big Pharma has deeper pockets.

    Also throwing all alternative medicine into the Quackery category is like saying any medicine before 100 years ago never really worked because there was no evidence or science backing it.

    I think if the concern is about wasted money then this is a drop in the bucket compared to the war money in $trillions and growing every day.

  • Blossom||

    I am 65 years of age. I have used Alternative Healing like you are talking about since I was about 25. I never have to go to a medical doctor because I am healthy. I do not have to take any prescription drugs that have all of the terrible side effects. Maybe you should open your mind and learn about what you are critical of.

    The reason that I started investigating alternative choices was because my mother was always sick. The more she went to the medical doctor and got more prescription medicines - the sicker she got. In her later years she finally started listening to me, and started feeling better and better. Especially after she went to a medical doctor who understood the racket of Big Pharma and took her off of 8 of the 10 Meds that the previous doctors put her on. Thank goodness there are honest medical doctors who truly want to help people to get well.

    The Feds do everything possible to silence the Alternative Community, so I don't understand why you would say they fund it.

    Terrible Article!!!!!!!

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