Conventional Tests for Unconventional Therapy

Article excerpt

Dr. Joseph Jacobs, director of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, has resigned in frustration after 20 months on the job. Asked to evaluate the validity of unconventional medical therapies, he found himself at odds with their more militant proponents.

They wanted their therapies - from electrical currents for cancer to biofeedback for diabetes to yogic breathing for obsessive-compulsive disorders - evaluated by unconventional means. Dr. Jacobs refused to comply. Instead, he insisted on controlled, long-term clinical trials - in short, conventional scientific methods to evaluate the efficacy of any treatment.

He was unwilling to accept suggestions by non-conventional practitioners to send out researchers to review alternative medical practitioners' case studies in the field, in effect determining their effectiveness somewhat haphazardly.

A graduate of Yale medical school, Dr. Jacobs is an American Indian familiar with Mohawk and Navajo medicine, so he is hardly biased against alternative medicine. Indeed, he helped convert the NIH and skeptics such as the American Medical Association to the idea that non-traditional medicine has much to teach and deserves serious attention. …