Some Notes on Jean Drisko, M.D.
In February 2003, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) announced that it was assembling a committee to identify major scientific and policy issues in "complementary and alternative medicine" ("CAM") research, regulation, training, credentialing and "integration with conventional medicine." As part of this process, it posted the names of 15 appointees and asked for public comment about their suitability. Here are IOM's biographical sketch of Dr. Drisko and the comments I submitted. Despite her deep involvement with unscientific methods, she was retained on the proposed committee.
IOM Description (February 2003): Jeanne Drisko is a full time faculty member in the University of Kansas School of Medicine (KUMC) and has developed the Program in Integrative Medicine at KUMC. She has been instrumental in developing research projects in the area of CAM therapies and plays an active role in education of medical students, nursing students, residents, and practicing physicians. Dr. Drisko has worked closely with the Kansas Legislators, Kansas Board of Healing Arts, and Kansas Medical Society to develop and pass laws and to define policy in the area of CAM. In addition, Dr. Drisko is active in several physician member organizations for CAM therapies in which she participates at the board level and has a national reputation for her work. Dr. Drisko also serves as the Program Director of the American College of Advancement in Medicine (ACAM). At ACAM, Dr. Drisko tracks and evaluates many trends in CAM and selects appropriate speakers in conformance with exacting CME requirements. She has familiarity with a wide spectrum of CAM modalities.
My Comments (Posted on February 23, 2003)
- In addition to being program director, Drisko has also been an ACAM board member. ACAM was formed chelation therapists and is primarily involved in promoting chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease, a procedure that has no scientific basis. Chelation therapy is the most-used and fraudulent physician-directed method in the United States. It has been condemned by the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and several other major organizations. ACAM teaches physicians how to perform "chelation" and is the chelationists' main advocacy group.
- In 1998, after charging ACAM with false advertising, the Federal Trade Commission secured a consent agreement barring it from making unsubstantiated advertising claims that chelation therapy is effective against atherosclerosis or any other circulatory disease. ACAM stopped using most of the sentences that the FTC challenged, but its chelation therapy position paper still promotes chelation as "an effective first step alternative to surgical treatment for atherosclerotic vascular disease in most cases." That statement is a flat lie.
- Drisko is listed as a staff member of the Center For the Improvement of Human Functioning International, a "medical, research and educational organization" in Wichita, Kansas. She is also listed as research director of its affiliated Olive W. Garvey Center for Healing Arts. The company's Web site states that the "scientists" at its Bio-Communications Research Institute. "are dedicated to biomedical research and education, including . . . subtle energies." The center's laboratory offers hair analysis (a cardinal sign of quackery), cytotoxic food sensitivity testing (banned by the FDA), and several other nonstandard tests. The center's store sells such notable products as Aller-Bee-Gone (a bee pollen product for allergies); blue-green algae; colloidal silver(risk without benefit) ; kava (FDA warning issued); thymic protein; and Alacer's "Miracle Water." The center also offers to teach others about auriculotherapy (acupuncture variant in which needling points on the ear is claimed to influence organs throughout the body), Kirlian photography (which has no useful medical applications), and "specific cancer cell culture techniques used to determine optimum vitamin C rates of intravenous infusions." (High-dose vitamin C is not effective against cancer.) ACAM's December 2002 newsletter urged its members to nominate Drisko to the IOM CAM panel.
- Drisko is a signatory to an anti-evolution statement promoted by the Discovery Institute, a stronghold of creation of creationist/intelligent design theorists I believe that her opposition to the most important theory in biology should cast doubt on her ability to judge what is important in the medical field, which is so heavily based on biology.
- Drisko is a member of the American Association for Health Freedom, which represents the economic and political interests of promoters of unscientific products and practitioners. Among other things, it spearheaded passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (to weaken FDA regulation of herbs and dietary supplements); opposes the licensing of nutritionists; and champions bills like the Access to Medical Treatment Act, which are intended to block the ability of state licensing boards to stop quack practitioners.
- I do not believe that a leader of any organization that promotes dubious methods and opposes sensible consumer protection should be asked for advice about research priorities or how to train or regulate practitioners.