P.Z. Myers turned me on to a phenomenal proposal at Change.gov, the website of President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition team:
Here’s a way to increase the available funding to NIH without increasing the NIH budget: halt funding to NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This Center was created not by scientists, who never thought it was a good idea, but by Congress, and specifically by just two Congressmen in the 1990′s who believed in particular “alternative” (but scientifically dubious) treatments. Defunding NCCAM would save at least $225 million, possibly more.
Defunding NCCAM would also provide a direct societal benefit. Practitioners of so-called “alternative” medicines constantly refer to NIH’s support as a way of validating their practices and beliefs, most of which are not supported by evidence. The fact is that after >10 years, NCCAM has not yet found a single piece of positive evidence for any of these methods, which include acupuncture, “qi”, homoepathy, magnet therapy, and other treatments.
Any legitimate, promising medical treatment can be funded by one of the existing NIH Institutes. There’s no need for a separate center for “alternative” therapies – but what has happened is that NCCAM has become a last refuge for poorly designed, unscientific studies that couldn’t get funded through the normal peer-reviewed process.
The person who proposes this is correct that the federal government spends around $225 million per year on unscientific and dubious studies of therapies mostly based on prescientific understanding. What he’s wrong about is where the total comes from. In actuality, NCCAM’s budget is around $121 million a year. The other money comes from an office in the National Cancer Institute known as the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, whose budget is also around $121 million a year. Together, that’s nearly a quarter of a billion scarce taxpayer dollars spent on woo. Both NCCAM and OCCAM would have to be defunded to realize that savings. Also, the entire NIH budget is just under $30 billion. Removing OCCAM and NCCAM would only be less than 1% of the NIH budget.
But it would at least be a start in shoring up the NIH, which has suffered grievously during the last four years. As our new Prez would say, “Yes we can!” Spread the word! Mobilize fellow supporters of science- and evidence-based medicine! It may not do any good, but at least it’s worth trying to emphasize to the new administration that there is support for eliminating a useless entity whose functions could be better done folded back into the NIH.
My power may be small compared to that of P.Z., but, please, my readers, fly, fly over to Change.gov, register, and vote up this proposal. The more votes, the higher it goes on the priority list. You know the woo-philes, when they find out about it, will be trying to vote it down.
After all, they’ve voted up a proposal for “health freedom” and “freedom from chemtrails” to a much, much higher level than the proposal to defund NCCAM. While you’re at it, you might want to vote that one down. Just don’t read the comments. The level of neuron-apoptosing stupidity there is enough to fry the brains of every scientist in the world a dozen times over.