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Is NCCAM a Sham?

Shark cartilage, coffee enemas, high-intensity light, and energy field manipulation: Complementary and alternative medicine has its curiosities and, of course, its doubters. Cancer biologist Saul Green, retired from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and now scientific editor of Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, says political pressure, not scientific merit, generates funding for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)--expected to exceed $113 milli

Brendan Maher

Shark cartilage, coffee enemas, high-intensity light, and energy field manipulation: Complementary and alternative medicine has its curiosities and, of course, its doubters. Cancer biologist Saul Green, retired from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and now scientific editor of Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, says political pressure, not scientific merit, generates funding for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)--expected to exceed $113 million (US) in 2003. An estimated 42% of the US population used at least one of a set of common CAM therapies in 1997--a significant increase from a study in 1990.1 Further, consumers spent upwards of $21 billion on professional CAM services, with more than half of those costs coming out-of-pocket (not covered by medical insurance). A two-year study initiated in October by the Institute of Medicine will further determine public consumption.

NCCAM director Stephen E. Straus says that public expenditures in the tens...

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