Now, I can just hear the CAM-fans protesting: "why are you opposed to doing studies of our methods? Are you afraid that studies will prove some of them work?" (This isn't a straw man argument, by the way - I've been asked precisely this question.) Well no, of course I'm not afraid that studies will prove that [acupuncture - homeopathy - naturopathy - Ayurveda - chiropractic - voodoo] will work. There are so many problems (with this CAM announcement) that I don't know where to begin, but one major problem is that studies have already been done, and all the results are negative. As CAM's acting director, Ruth Kirshstein, writes in her request for over $121 million for next year's CAM budget, NCCAM has supported research at more than 260 institutions over the past 7 years. Have any positive results emerged? No. Why throw good money after bad? We shouldn't.
Some of my blogosphere colleagues have already put forward some excellent arguments for why NCCAM's funding should be eliminated - see the recent post by Steven Novella, who argues:
Why can’t studies of CAM modalities be funded through the regular NIH? Because the NIH has standards, and what passes for research in the CAM world is often so laughably pathetic that it could never mean the NIH standard and get funded. NCCAM was created to provide a much lower standard for CAM research. In other words – waste money on studies that are not worth funding when judged by the usual criteria.I couldn't have expressed it better. If this work is any good, it will get funded through the regular NIH mechanisms. Also see the comments of ScienceZoo, who points out that none of the three new CAM Centers are likely to find effective therapies for what they claim to be studying.
While I was celebrating this announcement from NIH, I couldn't help myself (I was so excited!!!) from looking at what their existing "Centers of Excellence" devote themselves to. You can find a list here, and it includes one for acupuncture (see my previous post on that topic), energy medicine (what the heck is that? I'll blog on it another time), and "mindfulness-based stress reduction" in HIV.
That last one is really rather appalling: they will investigate using meditation techniques as a way to "slow disease progression and delay the need for antiretroviral treatment." So they're going to tell HIV-positive patients to delay taking proven therapies and try meditation instead? How many patients need to die before they admit this isn't a good idea.
So you see, we have so much to celebrate this week. Three new NCCAM centers and a request for another $121 million in NCCAM funds next year. I'm so happy.