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NEWS: Alternative Medicine Is Expensive, Rick Perry Gets Heckled, And Judy Garland Makes Breakfast

Fortuneteller Road Hundreds of millions of dollars spent testing efficacy of healing prayers, "energy" healing, and aromatherapy:

Thanks to a $374,000 taxpayer-funded grant, we now know that inhaling lemon and lavender scents doesn't do a lot for our ability to heal a wound. With $666,000 in federal research money, scientists examined whether distant prayer could heal AIDS. It could not.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM, also helped pay scientists to study whether squirting brewed coffee into someone's intestines can help treat pancreatic cancer (a $406,000 grant) and whether massage makes people with advanced cancer feel better ($1.25 million). The coffee enemas did not help. The massage did.

NCCAM has also invested in studies of various forms of energy healing, including one based on the ideas of a self-described "healer, clairvoyant and medicine woman" who says her children inspired her to learn to read auras. The cost for that was $104,000.

A small, little-known branch of the National Institutes of Health, NCCAM was launched a dozen years ago to study alternative treatments used by the public but not accepted by mainstream medicine. Since its birth, the center has spent $1.4 billion, most of it on research.

Road Rick Perry declines to take question: "Why do you hate gay people so much?"

Road Rick Santorum worries marriage equality might "normalize same-sex values." Quick! Name a same-sex value!

Road Jon Huntsman can't quite endorse Hillary Clinton's admonishments to countries that kill and imprison gays:

"I think we ought to focus on getting our own house in order here in terms of how we treat one another, the respect we feel for one another, getting our economy back on track and fixing our core," he said. "If we can do that, I think the rest of the world will pay us a little more attention."

Road Meanwhile, AFTAH totally endorses the very countries Hillary admonished:

With their new escalation of promoting homosexual behavior to other nations through U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama  and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have raised America’s defiance toward her Creator to a new level — while needlessly alienating nations less morally compromised than our own.  Not content to keep our decadence between our shores, the United States – through aggressively pro-“gay” Democratic administrations – now demands that other countries sink to our level by embracing homosexuality as a “human right.”

... There are many countries – including Muslim-dominated nations and major powers like Russia – that reject homosexuality.  By pushing sexual deviance on these nations, we only confirm their perception of America as a corrupt and declining – and very arrogant — superpower.

Road Careful! Facebook might be hiding your emails.

Road Standardized high school tests stymie reasonably successful adults. What's it mean?

JudyAndLiza Road Gay high school home-coming king has a message for occasionally bullied teen Jonah Lowry, whom we wrote about here. (In the future, do you suppose all teenagers will communicate with index cards?)

Road Paul Varnell has died.

Road What's Judy making for breakfast? Find out AFTER THE JUMP ...



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  1. The NCCAM research, while it sounds outrageous, may serve to address a variety of questions about the efficacy of many alternative medicine treatments. At least there's peer reviewed research to dispute Aunt Edna's claim that prayer cures everything. And cancer patients who are sure to have therapeutic massages covered by insurance (cough) will be grateful for that research.

    Huntsman is right. It seems a little much for this administration, who has been a reluctant ally for LGBT equality (at best), to chastise the rest of the world.

    Posted by: Rich | Dec 11, 2011 11:58:23 PM

  2. does 'sharing wardrobes' count as a same-sex value or is that just more value for your dollar?

    Posted by: raphinou | Dec 12, 2011 12:08:45 AM

  3. You mock money spent on the alternative medicine research - but traditional medicines (such as herbal medicines) is a global industry that generates more than 83 billion dollars annually. (http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/policy/world_medicines_situation/WMS_ch18_wTraditionalMed.pdf)

    With little understanding of alternative forms of medicine, we are vulnerable to false claims that might do more harm than good. So I won't mind seeing money go into research, as insane and far out as it might seem, because it does serve a purpose.

    Posted by: Dan | Dec 12, 2011 12:48:45 AM

  4. The only purpose funding "alternative medicine" serves is to waste money.

    Do you know what people call alternative medicine that actually works?


    Posted by: Josh | Dec 12, 2011 2:38:14 AM

  5. A different Josh here. All medicine is expensive. And good research done properly is expensive. The headline here should be: even alternative medicine promising enough to get federal research funding is largely ineffective. That said, we should still be funding research into the most promising alternative therapies in a focused way

    Posted by: Josh MD | Dec 12, 2011 3:03:26 AM

  6. NCCAM was actually launched over 20 years ago, not just a dozen, under the name OAM - Office of Alternative Medicine. In '98 it changed its name. While I do think there's value in studies of alternative therapies, the agency has come under criticism for some of its questionable choices of studies - like long distance prayer healing. Its original purpose was to study things like herbal and holistic medicines, vitamin therapy, magnetic and electrical energy therapies, and the like. It has gradually expanded to include things like psychic healing and auras and similar things.

    Posted by: Dan | Dec 12, 2011 6:52:29 AM

  7. I get the whole argument that it's good to have scientific research discrediting ineffective alternative medicine, but people who advocate for and practice such "medicine" don't have much respect for science in the first place, in most cases. That is part of the problem — people don't care about what is true, they care about what is comforting.

    Hi Josh MD! Also from MD here!

    Posted by: Jason 2 | Dec 12, 2011 7:26:48 AM

  8. @ Thorp:

    I find it more than a bit irresponsible for this blog to mock alternative medicine with such an idiotic photo and a subtle attempt to lead readers into believing that ALL alternative medicine and therapies can be lumped into one ineffective group.

    Not all alternative medicine and therapies are alike in this regard. Yes, there are some that are a waste of time but not all, just like regular medicine.

    There are MANY alternative therapies and treatment types that have truly helped millions of people the world over. The huge pharmaceutical, medical, doctor and insurance groups really don't want anyone to know that and they spend a lot of time and money to spread mistrust and misinformation about them.

    I have saved thousands of dollars using alternative medicines which really do work - AFTER already trying regular doctors and hospitals to help my chronic health problems with zero results and a resulting empty bank account. I can have almost a normal everyday existence thanks to alternative medicine and this was not possible before with insurance-approved, expensive doctors and pharmaceuticals.

    Posted by: johnny | Dec 12, 2011 9:08:15 AM

  9. Dear John: Glad to hear of your recovery. To which alt meds do you refer? - BKT

    Typos courtesy of iPhone and Autocorrect.

    Posted by: Brandon K. Thorp | Dec 12, 2011 9:17:27 AM

  10. The NCCAM is extremely important to not only tease out the alternative therapies that actually do help, but to debunk the scores of charlatans out there who are fleecing people desperate to get back to a normal life.

    I hate to break it to you, Johnny, but mainstream medicine, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies absolutely DO NOT spend time and money to spread mistrust and misinformation.

    If alternative medical practitioners would put their claims to science and publish their findings as the NCCAM is now doing, we doctors would be more than thrilled to have another tool in the toolbox. Not much is more frustrating than having to tell a patient, "We don't know why you're hurting. The only reassurance I can give you is that it doesn't appear to be life threatening."

    Posted by: Sean in Dallas | Dec 12, 2011 9:35:49 AM

  11. Funding research is tied into insurance claims and what Medicare and Medicaid will cover. Many choices are clearly dubious, but there are enough in Congress who support this research that it gets some funding.

    Posted by: anon | Dec 12, 2011 10:59:33 AM

  12. I'll stick with alternative medicine any day including those "medicines" which have been around thousands of years-Massage,Accupunture,Marijuana,Food that grows from healthy soil and is not created in some 'science' lab. A study should be done on how many people are killed by the 'side effects' of all these toxic pills which are supposed to cure everything from anxiety to AIDS...But instead kill those they are intended to heal.

    Posted by: SFshawn | Dec 12, 2011 12:42:11 PM

  13. Yes, let's please do get back to the gold old days when we relied on nature and didn't have to endure this pesky "science."

    Oh, wait--except that we'll all be dying from infections and teeth problems and malnutrition well before the age of 40.

    I'll take real medicine any day, thank you.

    Posted by: fedorajoe | Dec 12, 2011 2:13:16 PM

  14. The purpose of the research includes identifying effective medications used by Indigenous people that can be incorporated into the medical arsenal of health professionals. The intention is not to replace conventional medication and care, but to expand it. An example would be discovering cocaine was one of the many "ingredients" in coca leaves. I agree with other readers this is one of the few times Towleroad has done a poor job in both the reporting and illustration.

    Posted by: Ty Nolan | Dec 12, 2011 2:29:09 PM

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