TIMES OPENS A CRACK TO OAM;
From The Cancer Chronicles #14
© Feb. 1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
The big media news this season was the front page article in the Sunday New York Times (1/10/93) headlined, "U.S. Opens the Door Just a Crack to Alternative Forms of Medicine." Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Natalie Angier, the lengthy story mainly details conflicting views in the scientiÞc community on the OAM. Most readers found the article positive, especially in a shorter version that ran in papers around the country.
The fact that the NIH, "long a stern protector of the most rigorous brand of science," according to Angier, is "about to start venturing into the realm of alternative medicine" got mixed reviews from scientists. "Some researchers," Angier reported "hail the initiative as visionary, but others liken it to governance by horoscope."
The article attempted to convey the historic signiÞcance of these events. But, while prominently featuring the new director, Joe Jacobs, it ignored the people and processes that brought this unique ofÞce into existence, especially the pioneering efforts of Rep. Berkley Bedell and Frank Wiewel. While the Sunday paper has itself now "opened a crack," the daily Times including the influential Science Times still maintains total silence on the subject.
The OAM is giving Þts to professional opponents of alternative therapies, called quackbusters. In November, Internal MedicineNews and Cardiology News published a lengthy interview with three members of the National Council Against Health Fraud, Drs. William Jarvis, Stephen Barrett and Victor Herbert. Dr. Herbert was most emphatic, calling the innovative new ofÞce a "rip-off of the public of $2 million which will be thrown away redoing what the government already did," an apparent reference to the OfÞce of Technology Assessment Report on unconventional cancer therapies. This 1990 report actually found 130 peer-reviewed articles in support of such therapies and recommended further testing.
"They are screening garbage looking for diamonds," Herbert went on. "There are no diamonds in garbage."
The new NIH ofÞce, the Mt. Sinai (NY) oncologist claimed, is simply "a way created by con artists to promote cons as a legitimate therapy."
Dr. Jarvis called the hundreds of participants at two successful NIH public meetings "essentially cultists and sectarians....They're making the most of the public relations value of this thing." Dr. Jarvis declared that "there was political meddling by insiders in Washington that created this [OAM] because of their own naivete." The implication is that the $2 billion-a-year War on Cancer was created without "political meddling," while this attempt to Þnally test alternative therapies, receiving 1/1000th of NCI¹s funding, is a political rip off.
Dr. Herbert repeated his charges in a book review in the 12/17/92 New England Journal of Medicine. He charged that "a deceived Congress, at the urging of a misguided former congressman" forced the NIH to "waste $2 million in 1992 and 1993 to attempt to validate 'alternative therapies.' " Congress, he continued, required NIH to include on its committee "a number of persons who make their living promoting health cons...." No names were given.
Such charges are also heard in the Cancer Letter, which has reported that ACS board members are "incensed" over the word "alternative" in the ofÞce's title. They falsely claimed NIH waived "conflict of interest rules, which permit advocates and practitioners of unconventional methods...to serve as ofÞcial paid consultants to the government." The newsletter retracted this false statement on 12/11/92.
ACS's Henry Lynch suggested forming a coalition with groups dealing with heart,
lung and arthritis, because that¹s "where all the quacks hang out," but
Helene Brown of California suggested using ACS's influence with the incoming
secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS): "I think we can get a political
solution without getting up a coalition." ACS seems to be on a collision
course with the OAM.
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