The Institute of Medicine "CAM" Committee Report:
Stacked Deck of Advocates Want More

NCAHF News Release, January 12, 2005

An outside committee dominated by "CAM" advocates with personal interests in promoting so-called "complementary and alternative medicine" has issued a report under the banner of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The committee was charged to report on "CAM" use, but instead chose to use this forum to reissue a thinly-veiled version of the report of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, which died two years ago on the desk of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. No one elected to the prestigious IOM practices "CAM" or has been recognized for "CAM" research. Neither the IOM nor its parent organization, the National Academy of Sciences, has endorsed the report.

So-called "complementary and alternative medicine" is not medicine at all and is not evidence-based. It consists of everything from iridology (defining illness by the spots on the iris of the eye) to distant prayer therapy and dangerous chiropractic neck manipulations that allegedly realign "energy flows" that have never been seen or measured.

Like the White House Commission before it, the IOM committee was composed of advocates and lacked skeptics. Predictably, the report tries to inflate the hodge-podge of bogus and disproven methods that ride under the marketing term "CAM" into an alleged body of health care.

The report makes broad, sweeping generalizations and attempts to set an agenda for widespread adoption of study and teaching of "CAM." Neither is justified. Despite spending more than $500 million over more than a decade on such research, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has not produced one study that validates any "CAM" practice as safe or meaningfully effective for treating any illness or condition.

A typical example of the lack of rigor of the committee is its failure to condemn practices that are dangerous and deceptive. During the past four years, the IOM has produced several in-depth studies on vaccine safety and concluded that allegations about a metal-containing preservative causing health effects are unfounded. Yet, a vocal group of "CAM" practitioners continue to use "chelation therapy" to treat conditions as disparate as autism and atherosclerosis that they falsely attribute to heavy metal poisoning. Nothing in the report even mentions this invalid practice even though it was discredited by IOM member scientists.

The report takes an undefined collection of unscientific practices and seeks to wrap them with the banner of the Institute, recommending unjustified expenditures of financial and human resources for study and integration into the health care delivery system. The Institute of Medicine is generally recognized for its rigor and science. The "CAM" report is not up to these standards and should be dutifully ignored. A detailed analysis of the report is posted on Quackwatch.

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The National Council Against Health Fraud is a consumer advocacy group dedicated to ensuring reliable and scientific health care practices, procedures and methods.

This page was posted on January 14, 2005.