Bee Pollen Bureaucracy?
The following letter was submitted to the New York Times, but never printed.
In "Bee Pollen Bureaucracy" (Op-Ed, Oct. 7, 1997) Leon Jaroff launches an attack on the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine. He demands that it either "be abolished or that its $12.5 million annual budget be slashed."
The article quotes "eminent scientists" arguing against the OAM. Citing no examples, Jaroff claims the office provides a "cover" for "quackery." But without scientific investigation, how are we to know if a proposed treatment is quackery or a breakthrough? OAM can shed scientific light on many popular practices. Jaroff would shut it down before it has a chance. Is this scientific?
Even your health columnist, Jane Brody, has written favorably about such alternative ideas as clinical ecology, the "arthritis cure," and St. John's wort. Is Jaroff serious in thinking that the government should not investigate such treatments? He would cast the debate back into the era of "quacks and quackbusters." This is unacceptable.
Sen. Harkin deserves credit for prodding the health bureaucracy to investigate unconventional methods. There is nothing inherently "ludicrous" about guided imagery, yoga, massage, homeopathy and therapeutic touch. They are favored by millions and the public has a right to know if they are safe and effective.
There is a problem at NIH, but it is the obstructionism of top health bureaucrats. Congress should make the OAM a full-fledged Center for Integrative Medicine and increase its funding so that it can carry out high quality scientific testing.
--Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D., Brooklyn, N.Y.
The author was a founding member of the Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council (AMPAC) of the NIH. He is the author of nine books on alternative medicine.