I was a huge fan of Dragnet as a kid. At the end they always noted that the ‘names were changed to protect the innocent.’ A good policy, protecting the innocent. Not always the result of a name change however.

The NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) has a new name and new initials: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

The name was changed because people do not use alternative medicine alone, but they integrate useless pseudo-medicines to complement reality-based medicine. And to quote me, when you integrate cow pie with apple pie, the cow pie does not taste better, the apple is worse.


As the NIH director, Dr. Collins, notes,

“Since its establishment 16 years ago, the center has funded thousands of important research projects. Without this work, the American public would lack vital information on the safety and effectiveness of many practices and products that are widely used and readily available,”

Failing to mention that the millions spent has to date essentially yielded nothing.

After more than ten years and $200 million, OAM/NCCAM-sponsored research has not demonstrated efficacy for any CAM method, nor has the Center informed the public that any method is useless (Green 2001). It continues to fund and promote pseudoscience. It continues to be influenced by powerful ideologues.

So they are going from studying

“alternative medicine”—unproven practices used in place of conventional medicine

to studying integrative medicine -  unproven practices used in addition to conventional medicine.

It is a distinction without a difference since as they note the

scientific foundation for many complementary approaches is still being built.

Hard to have a building with a foundation that is not based in realty.

Still their goals sounds promising:

The practices and products that will continue to be studied by the Center are prioritized by four guiding principles: scientific promise, amenability to be studied using the highest quality research methods, use by the American public, and the potential impact on public health.

It is the implementation that will be important. What is called complementary or alternative is a gradient from the totally ridiculous of homeopathy, reiki or acupuncture to standard interventions like diet and exercise rebranded as CAM.  

My wife always says if you want to predict future behavior, look at past behavior. I suspect there will be no substantial change in the NCCIH or in the practice of CAM as a result of the NCCIH since pseudo-medicines are immune to change as a result of data. The special pleading for continued studies will continue. It will be old whine in a new bottle.