Tsouderos looks at federal funding of alternative medicine

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In her latest series, Chicago Tribune reporter Trine Tsouderos, whose award-winning reporting has brought her hard-nosed approach to investigating less-proven areas of medicine, which will be familiar to many members, to bear upon the federal government.

This time, her target is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which she calls “a small, little-known branch of the National Institutes of Health … launched a dozen years ago to study alternative treatments used by the public but not accepted by mainstream medicine.” According to Tsouderos, the center has spent $1.4 since its inception, some of it on curious projects.

A Tribune examination of hundreds of NCCAM grants, dozens of scientific papers, 12 years of NCCAM documents and advisory council meeting minutes found that the center has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on studies with questionable grounding in science.

You’ll want to read it for yourself, but highlights include sentences such as “The cancer treatment involving coffee enemas was based on an idea from the early 1900s, and patients who chose to undergo the risky regimen lived an average of just four months” and “Thanks to a $374,000 taxpayer-funded grant, we now know that inhaling lemon and lavender scents doesn’t do a lot for our ability to heal a wound.”

It’s not all just cherry-picking wacky studies, of course. Tsouderos also looks deep into the powerful alternative medicine industry as well as the scientific rigor, or lack thereof, that sits at its core.

1 thought on “Tsouderos looks at federal funding of alternative medicine

  1. Katy

    This is an important conversation and our staff at NCCAM worked closely with Ms. Tsouderos on her story. Nearly 40% of Americans are using a complementary approach–and spending close to $34 billion each year–to address their health needs. NCCAM is working to advance the research about safety and efficacy in this area so both consumers and health care providers can make informed decisions. You can read more about NCCAM’s take on this story in our director’s message and in our letter to the editor.

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