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Feds give $5.5 billion for unscientific alternative medicine

(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Flickr)

(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Flickr)

Propelled by one former U.S. senator, the federal government has wasted billions on unproven alternative medicine with no positive health outcomes.

The National Institutes of Health, thanks to former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), founded the Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992 to investigate “unconventional medical practices.” It became the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health by 1998 with a larger budget and stronger reach.

Since then, it has been rife with problems from a politicized advisory council, hostility toward scientific rigor, and weakening medical standards throughout the American medical establishment, according to Reason.

This venture has spend about $5.5 billion in taxpayer money.

Alternative approaches to solutions doesn’t make them inherently wrong, but the lack of scientific integrity shows the NCCIH to lack basic credibility and justification.

Beyond publications that call for more research, NCCIH output has “not produced useful information.”

The results — or lack thereof — from the NCCIH beg the question of why the NIH needs a center devoted to alternative medicine. With little progress, the investigation could be folded into a different center in the NIH. One that has strong scientific rigor without the stench of a political pet project.

The failure of the NCCIH illustrates the caution of political aspiration. Sen. Harkin convinced himself that bee pollen cured his allergy problems, then bull-rushed the program into existence.

Rarely do those programs fade after they become entrenched. Even absurd, outdated laws hang around for decades.

The NIH spent almost $400 million researching complementary and alternative medicine in fiscal year 2014. About 25 percent of that was through the NCCIH. With so much funding going to the center, it becomes politically difficult to defeat the interested parties rooted in its continuation.

The NCCIH is a cautionary tale in American health policy that has no end in sight.

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