Tuesday, February 05, 2008

NCCAM: $1 billion and counting, and nothing to show for it

When DC’s Improbable Science declared that the NCCAM had denounced homeopathy I was stunned. Could this be true? After years and years and millions of tax dollars had the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM, which I think would be more appropriately named NCPP for National Center for the Promotion of Pseudoscience) finally settled something by debunking homeopathy, one of the wooiest forms of woo? The link was to this Newsweek article on CAM which quoted the acting director of NCCAM thusly:

Dr. Jack Killen, acting deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, says homeopathy "goes beyond current understanding of chemistry and physics." He adds: "There is, to my knowledge, no condition for which homeopathy has been proven to be an effective treatment."

My encouragement was short lived thanks to a post by Dr. David Gorski, writing for the Science Based Medicine blog. He trotted out examples to show that the NCCAM, in fact, continues to fund “research” on homeopathy right along with all the other woo. How about this one: Dilution and Succussion in Homepathic Remedy Dose-Response Patterns. Here’s how Gorski describes the study:

This latter grant actually proposes to study whether succussion (the vigorous shaking done with each homeopathic dilution) that, claim homeopaths, is necessary to “potentize” their remedies affects the dose-response characteristics of homeopathic remedies up to 30C dilution (30 times 100-fold, or a dilution factor of 1 x 10-60). This is a dilution factor many orders of magnitude larger than Avagaddro’s number, which is makes a 30C homeopathic remedy nothing but water. Period. In fact, the investigators are actually going to compare stirring with succussion to see whether succussion, as homepaths claim, improves the dose-response curve. It beggars the imagination that such a project was actually seriously considered and then scored highly by a study section.

In reading the proposal had I not known this was funded by a grant from NCCAM I would have thought it was a parody---something right out of Q Fever, perhaps.

Gorski’s post is not just about homeopathy. The piece, one of the most comprehensive analyses of the NCCAM I’ve ever seen and well worth reading in its entirety, drives home three important points:

Throughout its history and at multiple levels of organization the NCCAM is rife with conflicts of interest.

After spending about a billion dollars over many years the NCCAM has validated nothing and debunked nothing (of any scientific importance, anyway) in the world of complementary and alternative medicine.

Much of the activity of NCCAM (and money spent) is promotional.

I’ve had a few things to say about NCCAM in prior posts:

NCCAM’s Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) is not only unnecessary but was doomed from the get-go by design flaws and conflicts of interest.

They keep hammering away in support of the same old woo despite implausibility and lack of supporting evidence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not the fault of Homoeopathy if its working is beyond the currently available scientific knowledge. What about the so called scientifically developed medicines which have side effects some times dangerous also. Why dont the critics demand a ban on that system also?
Alternative therapies do not poison the body with chemicals. There is no system of medicine which can give a cure just like a mathematical formula. Then why target Homoeopathy . Is it because the growing popularity of Homoeopathy is eating into the revenues of the rival systems which has made medicare too prohibitive and fit to be called medi-scare??