A proposal to elevate the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) into an institute fell short during the appropriations process, but a 60 percent increase in funding represents a victory of sorts for the office. The $8-million boost proposed by a conference committee would raise OAM's current $12-million budget to $20 million for FY1998.

The conference committee's decision was a surprise considering earlier requests. The House and the Clinton administration both sought cuts in the office's funding, down to $7.5 million for 1998; the Senate requested a slight funding increase, to $13 million. If OAM had been elevated to an NIH institute, it could have received a $200-million annual budget.

The OAM's status sparked a debate during an October 9 Senate hearing over who should have granting authority for studies of unconventional therapies-skeptical scientists or alternative medicine proponents. Critics say that therapies investigated by OAM should undergo...

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