The NCAHF has

a large collection

of materials on 

health fraud and

quackery which 

is available to 

consumers for 

a small fee. 



Resources for Evaluating Alternative Medical Claims
 By ProFacto Staff 
Alternative medicine has become increasingly popular and is widely promoted through books and television. But where does one go for the information necessary to sort the fact from fantasy, or to sort effective new treatments from wishful thinking and money-making scams?

     As O4R examines specific topics through speakers or articles, we try to direct readers to sources where they may find additional information. Dr. Wallace Sampson has called our attention to three excellent sources for readers who need specific assistance or who are interested in examining this topic further.

National Council Against Health Fraud

     The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) has a large collection of materials on health fraud and quackery which is available to consumers for a small fee. These include references to original research articles. A list of the topics they have available is published on their web site.

     Also available on-line are NCAHF position papers on acupuncture, diet and criminal behavior, chiropractic, colon irrigation, diploma mills, and homeopathy. Each treatment paper describes the treatment, its history, the scientific evidence for or against the therapy, gives recommendations, and provides references.

     NCAHF is a nonprofit organization first incorporated in California in 1977. It became a national organization in 1984. According to their online mission statement, it was founded on the belief that “the scientific process is essential for discovering truths and validating health claims and information” and that “health products and services should be: proved safe and effective before marketing, with proponents bearing the burden of such proof; accurately labeled or fully described; and truthfully advertised.”

     It investigates and evaluates claims for health products and services, provides health fraud education, links individuals and organizations concerned about health fraud, supports consumer rights, and aids in legal action against consumer health protection violations. Its membership includes a long list of medical experts concerned about medical fraud and quackery. These experts are available to the media and health care consumers. In particular, NCAHF’s Task Force on Victim Redress helps victims find competent legal assistance.

     To join or find out more about NCAHF go to their web site or write:
     National Council Against Health Fraud
     P.O. Box 1276
     Loma Linda, CA 92354-9983.

Quackwatch on the Web

     Another excellent source is Quackwatch, operated by Stephen Barrett, MD. Quackwatch has hundreds of online articles on everything from specific therapies to how spot quackery, although some listed topics have yet to have articles posted to them. The site has its own search engine to help you quickly find specific topics. Quackwatch also has projects underway to register alternative cancer treatments, examine dubious advertising and internet marketing scams, and track quackery for pets. Their web site has excellent links to other consumer health organizations.

The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine

     Two “alternative medicine” journals appeared in 1994 and 1995, but both primarily advocated pseudoscientific experiments, explanations and opinions. Accurate information on anomalous medical claims is available, but it can be difficult to find. Currently it is sparsely spread throughout the pages of credible medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Reliable general articles can be found in the Skeptical Inquirer, the NCAHF Newsletter (from the National Council Against Health Fraud), and Priorities (from the American Council on Science and Health). 

     Wallace Sampson, MD, felt that accurate information on “alternative” therapies should be available in one place. 

     Sampson developed the idea of a journal devoted solely to the critical analysis of aberrant medical claims. He approached several publishers; none were interested. The economy was sluggish, paper expensive, and libraries were removing journals from their collections. In 1996, Sampson met with Paul Kurtz of Prometheus Books; Kurtz decided the project was worth a try. Lewis Vaughn became executive editor and the new journal, The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, was underway. 

     Sampson actively solicits articles for each issue, as a bank of authors is gradually forming. The journal has several sections: Original research. Such papers will be slow in coming because projects take several years to develop and write up. Papers will be accepted from “alternative medicine” advocates if they are conceived and carried out sensibly. Analysis. Authors analyze reports from journals, newspapers and magazines, and other sources. Errors and misinterpretations are identified, and conclusions drawn as to the report’s reliability. Reviews. Authors select a subject or series of events, such as homeopathy, oxygen therapies, acupuncture, herbalism, or the Office of Alternative Medicine, and describe them, then comment on their claims or contents. Commentary. Articles on allied, but not necessarily strictly medical subjects, such as quantum mechanics, statistics, psychology of perception, belief, biochemistry of vitamins, “natural” substances, etc. These commentaries are tools for readers to use when analyzing claims. Reprints. The journal reprints important papers from other journals that are not likely to be readily available to most readers. The journal also carries book reviews and letters

     The journal’s policy is not to present what post-modernists or the press would call “balanced” reports. The journal’s function is to present rational, logical, scientific information in a manner understandable to medical professionals and educated adults. 

     Subscriptions may be ordered through Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Dr., Amherst, NY 14228. Potential authors may receive instructions from the above address and should submit their ideas and/or manuscripts to Dr. Wallace Sampson, 841 Santa Rita Ave., Los Altos, CA 94022 with an accompanying disc using MSWord or Wordperfect, or by electronic mail.


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© 2001 Oregonians for Rationality