In California, Arizona and Nevada, “In and Out” is just a good hamburger. But in Washington D.C., being “in and out” means stepping in only to claim territory, to keep Congress and the public happy—and then to just stand in the way and obstruct true change. The permanent bureaucracy of Washington and all the public employee unions do believe in “hope and change”… They hope that nothing will ever change. Which is one of the main reasons we don’t have better, more useful research on—and access to—the sort of true complementary medicine I told you about in The Power of a Good Complement.
Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa (who has made many political sacrifices to pursue what he believes to be in the best interests of the American taxpayers) almost single-handedly forced the NIH to start taking CAM seriously about 20 years ago. As the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, Harkin established the Office of Alternative Medicine at the NIH in 1991.
The problem is, the NIH’s definition of “serious” is vastly different from yours and mine.
For a few early years we did have some well-intentioned, qualified people running the new office (while it had very little funding). Then, when the funding finally increased, the NIH did what it does best. It sabotaged the effort. By putting people in charge whose only qualification seemed to be that they knew absolutely nothing about CAM. For example, ruining their study on the best shot at a Chinese remedy for cancer by using herbal preparations that were contaminated (I’ll come back to that topic in a future edition of the Daily Dispatch.)
The first time it happened, in the 1990s, there was some outcry. But when they did it again in the 2000s I was far from surprised. It reminded me of when I heard Bill Clinton say, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Why does anyone continue to look for leadership from NIH?
Former Congressman Earnest Istook of Oklahoma once called these government scientists and the academic scientists who live off their largess—and I quote—“Welfare Queens in lab coats.”
The entire system is ridiculous. The NIH rewards lavish research grants (funded by taxpayers) to their “friends”—those who echo their already-established views (and mistakes). No wonder there’s never real progress.
But, I digress.
Between Harkin and Istook, I found myself thankful that we still had some citizens from the Midwest working in Washington. Though I couldn’t help wonder why they still had any faith left in such an inept, corrupt system. I had another chance to meet with Sen. Harkin in 1998, on one of the many government holidays. On his day off, I found him in his office, wearing blue jeans, with his feet up on his desk, reading the new edition of my medical textbook on CAM.
I asked him, “Why do you continue to push the NIH to CAM, despite their obvious lack of serious commitment?”
That started a long discussion that continued well after our meeting was supposed to adjourn. We both had to leave to catch a train. But this honest broker stood in the cold outside Union Station to explain—and to encourage me.
He felt establishing the Office of Alternative Medicine was symbolic. And would send a message to the medical community to begin taking CAM seriously. Given the very small amounts of money involved, it amounted to a well-intentioned PR campaign by the Senator. But he wasn’t the only one in Washington with pure motives.
Sen. Harkin’s Republican colleague on the appropriations committee, my friend Arlen Specter, was also a supporter of CAM. In fact, I suggested he go to the NIH to ask them to study “energy medicine.” They told him that the NIH does not believe in bioenergy. So I suggested he ask the Department of Energy to study it instead. They certainly couldn’t tell him that they don’t believe in energy over there.
In fact, the Department of Energy has had a successful program in “alternative” medical research for decades. They funded my research on the cancer-causing effects of excess iron in the body—after NIH refused to study it. Why would the NIH refuse? Well, maybe because it would (and did) raise questions about the government policy to “fortify” the food we eat every day with iron. (For more on this, refer to Classified Cancer Answers in my Insiders’ Library of Confidential Cures).
Unfortunately, this wishy-washy, “in-and-out” government approach to CAM endures to this day.
My most recent experience was just this year when I was asked by a science bureaucrat at the NIH to help them review proposals for studies on long-needed alternative therapies for pain.
“Finally!” I thought. But I should have known better.
After a short conversation on the phone, it was evident the person in charge of this review was a displaced “bench” scientist. She’d never been out of the laboratory. Her background was irrelevant. And she knew literally nothing about the hundreds of studies that had already been done, the key books that had been published, or the leading researchers who had already published studies in this field. Nor was she interested in hearing ANY of it.
So, there they go again. Destined to waste more money on a mediocre panel led by a mediocre “expert.” Because the serious leaders in the field don’t have time to waste to act as “window dressing” for the NIH. And the future of CAM will unfortunately remain in the hands of clueless science bureaucrat “reviewers” who only show up at NIH to earn brownie points for their own grants.
All at your expense (in more ways than one).
I was asked to run the NIH Office for Alternative Medicine several times over the years (before they re-named it the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine). But knowing what I know about how they handle research, I could never take it seriously.
And you shouldn’t either.
But that’s not to say that all is lost…Tomorrow I’ll tell you how CAM is standing up to the toughest, most rigorous research standards the mainstream can throw at it. And how true science will win out in the end.