is Part Two of a special report about the Office of Alternative
(OAM) and the National Center
for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (NCCAM). Part One appeared in(the print version of) Townsend
2007 double issue. That column featured an interview with Frank
Wiewel, founder and director of People Against Cancer (PAC), a grassroots
organization dedicated to obtaining evaluations of complementary
and alternative medicine (CAM).1
Wiewel was influential as a government
outsider in persuading Congress to establish the OAM in 1992, and
from 1992 to 1998, he served as
chair of the OAM's
Pharmacological and Biological Treatments Committee, an advisory body. He was
also influential in the establishment of NCCAM, created by Congress in 1997
to replace OAM.2 After six years in this role, he was totally fed up with the
lack of progress by OAM/NCCAM toward setting up clinical trials of alternative
therapy for cancer and heart disease, our nation's leading killers. Wiewel
attributed OAM/NCCAM's inaction, particularly in cancer, to derailment
by directors and the bureaucracy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
whom he sensed did not want OAM/NCCAM to achieve its Congressionally authorized
mission – to investigate and validate alternative treatments.
Here, in Part Two of this special report, the focus is again on cancer, but
the featured interview is with a government insider instrumental in establishing
OAM: former Congressman Berkley Bedell (R-Iowa). Unlike Frank Wiewel, who assumed
his advisory position in Washington with the enthusiasm of a neophyte (albeit
guarded) and left for his Iowa home jaded, Berkley Bedell is wise to the ways
in which agencies and offices mandated by Congress to attain specific goals
can be sidetracked en route. The interview with this Congressional veteran
reflects this difference in perspective, as do the questions put to him about
expectations, performance, and the future for OAM/NCCAM.
Interview with Former Congressman Berkley Bedell
MC: You represented the Sixth Congressional District, Iowa, from 1975 to 1987.
As an experienced politician, you were aware that the personnel of agencies
initiated by Congress could redirect and frustrate Congressional intent.
In that light, how much substantive progress toward evaluation of unconventional
cancer treatment did you anticipate from OAM?
BB: Let me supply historical background before replying. In 1992, Senator Tom
Harkin was chairman of the Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.
He and I had come to Congress together in 1975, and we had remained close friends.
He knew from our conversations and his observations that alternative treatments
had helped me recover from two serious illnesses. In light of my experiences,
he introduced an amendment to the 1992 NIH appropriations bill, providing $2
million to establish an office of alternative medicine within the NIH.
The report language of the bill establishing OAM specified that it was
and validate" alternative treatments for disease. The bill also provided
for an advisory committee for the Office, on which I served for eight years.
Our advisory committee was in complete agreement in wanting the Office to do
what we called "field trials"; i.e., to go out into the field
and investigate alternative treatments, and then conduct trials to confirm
effectiveness of the treatment. We expected OAM to follow up as advised.
MC: Do any incidents or confidences stand out in your memory of OAM's
five years in operation that tipped you off to OAM's performance?
BB: Our advisory
committee passed motion after motion requesting OAM to conduct those "field trials." We demanded that the Office conduct itself
in the way the legislation specified: "investigate and validate." They
absolutely refused. Our advisory committee blamed the OAM director, Dr.
Joseph Jacobs, and we had some very heated meetings. I now believe that
we may have
been unfair to Dr. Jacobs and that it was the people at the top of the
NIH who would not let him investigate alternative treatments. The NIH simply
handed out the money appropriated for OAM to universities and others to
to me to be meaningless research within these institutions.
MC: How much substantive progress regarding evaluation of alternative cancer
therapies did you expect from NCCAM? Did you feel that a larger budget and
greater autonomy within NIH would enable NCCAM to cope with animosity from
BB: Not while the NIH essentially determines NCCAM's funding and project
priorities. Look at NCCAM! I believe the budget for NCCAM is currently something
like $200 million. As far as I can find out, no part of NCCAM has yet investigated
and validated a single alternative treatment.
MC: Could you tell whether that animosity extended deep into NIH, reflecting
the attitude of researchers, or was it coming mainly from high NIH bureaucrats?
BB: I can't say whether the NIH's refusal to study alternative
science and treatments extends to researchers at the various institutes or
springs from the attitude of NIH bureaucrats. It doesn't matter; even
if NIH researchers wanted to investigate alternative treatments, the bureaucrats
wouldn't let them. And the bureaucrats are in charge.
MC: Is it possible for NCCAM over a second decade to free itself from NIH restraints
and progress toward identifying and setting up trials of promising unconventional
cancer treatments? Is there any hope that Federal funding of such evaluations
can achieve this goal?
BB: If anyone believes that more funding would cause NIH to let NCCAM investigate
and validate alternative treatments, they surely haven't had any experience
with the bureaucrats at NIH. I believe the establishment of OAM served a great
purpose, in that it told the world that Congress believes that alternative
treatments for disease should be investigated. But if I were still in Congress,
I would work to eliminate funding for NCCAM. I'm sure that is exactly
what top people at NIH want, yet it makes no sense to continue to pour money
into a center that is unable to carry out its legislative mandate.
MC: You've launched a foundation to promote alternative medicine. How
did that come about? How is it going?
BB: As a result
of my experience with NIH, my wife and I decided the "investigation
and validation" of alternative treatments is of sufficient importance
that it should not be dropped. We said, "If the government won't
do it, we'll have to try to do it ourselves." We formed the National
Foundation for Alternative Medicine in 1998. With a budget of less than
$1 million per year and a full time staff of only six, we travel the world
for better treatments. We haven't yet had any major breakthroughs, but
the treatments and science we're finding are most encouraging. We welcome
inquiries and support from the public and invite Townsend Letter readers
who wish to help us with this worthwhile work to contact us.3
MC: While on the subject of alternative care, would you kindly elaborate on
and date your involvement with alternative medicine?
BB: I left Congress in 1987 because I came down with Lyme disease after being
bitten by ticks while fishing at the Quantico Marine Base during a Congressional
recess. Shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I feel certain
an alternative treatment cured my Lyme disease. It's my belief that an
alternative treatment also resolved my prostate cancer.
MC: Details would be very much welcome here.
BB: A farmer cured my Lyme disease with a preparation of colostrum from cow's
milk. The preparation is obtained by injecting a particular pathogen into the
udder of a pregnant cow and then taking the first milk from the cow as medication
specific for this pathogen. The theory is that if the cow has really been infected
with the pathogen, it will transmit the disease to the fetus, and Mother Nature
will put into the colostrum what's necessary to cure the calf after birth.
I obtained some killed Lyme spirochetes (the spiral-shaped bacteria that cause
Lyme disease) and had them injected into a pregnant cow. When the calf was
born, the first milk (colostrum) was the medicine the farmer had me use. He
directed me to carry a little bottle of the colostrum in one pocket and a timer
in the other. I took a tablespoon of colostrum every hour and a half while
I was awake. Soon, my symptoms disappeared. That was 18 years ago. All indications
are that I no longer have Lyme disease.
MC: And the prostate cancer?
BB: For my prostate cancer, I first went the conventional route with surgery
and radiation. When it appeared that my cancer was returning, I visited Dr.
Gaston Naessens in Canada. He has a treatment for cancer called 714-X. I injected
myself with 714-X daily for two periods of 21 days. All indications are that
I no longer have prostate cancer.
MC: In a memorandum you e-mailed me attached to your answers for this interview,
you mentioned that Dr. Naessens approached the NIH about looking into 714-X.
I'd prefer your recollection of the repercussions to my third-hand retelling.
BB: The NIH refused, but they checked with the Canadian authorities, who had
been approving the use of his treatment when a doctor requested it for a terminal
patient. Then NIH brought pressure on the Canadian authorities to withdraw
approval, and the NIH succeeded.
MC: The next interview in this special report on OAM/NCCAM will be with Senator
Tom Harkin, your fellow Iowan. I've heard that you introduced the Senator
How did that happen?
BB: As I've said, I'm a very good friend of Senator Harkin. One
time when I was visiting him, he was sneezing and having a miserable time.
"What's wrong, Tom?" I asked.
"I'm having a terrible time with my allergies," he replied.
"I have someone who claims he has a cure for that," I told him.
"What is it?" he wondered.
"Bee pollen," I said.
"Oh, my gosh!" he exclaimed.
"Well, I don't see how it could hurt you," I said. "Maybe
it can cure you."
"O.K," he answered, "I'll try it."
late Royden Brown, the gentleman who developed the bee pollen remedy,
flew up to Washington from
Phoenix, Arizona. The treatment requires taking
twelve capsules, then waiting 15 minutes. If the symptoms haven't improved,
the patient takes 12 more capsules and waits another 15 minutes. If
necessary, the procedure is performed three times. Whenever the
goes through the same procedure again.
With Senator Harkin, after the second dose of 12 capsules, those in
attendance agreed that his symptoms had disappeared. To make a long
he took something like 200 capsules in the next few days. But he no
trouble with allergies. I should say that the capsules have some herbs
in them in addition to the bee pollen.
Former Congressman Berkley Bedell and Frank Wiewel, founder and director
of People Against Cancer (PAC), had been influential in creating OAM.
One of this report for Wiewel's contribution in the
print version of the Townsend Letter, August/September
2007). They served on OAM's advisory board and remained in touch
with Senator Harkin long enough after NCCAM replaced OAM in 1997 to conclude
NCCAM would move no farther than its predecessor toward evaluation of
alternative cancer treatment.
Wiewel exited the Washington scene and concentrated on building a grassroots
support political action committee (PAC) for independent trials of alternative
therapy in general. Bedell and his wife established a foundation to scout promising
alternative treatments worldwide; he so soured on NCCAM, he would vote to abolish
it, as he asserted, were he still in Congress.
Closing my interviews for Parts One and Two of this report, I felt an urge
to contact a member of the federal government present at the "birth" of
OAM, who had then remained in touch with developments at NCCAM. Bedell
referred me to Mike Hall, an equity partner with Madison Associates, LLC,
relations firm in DC. Back in 1992, Hall was staff director of the Senate
Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations (LHHSA) Subcommittee, chaired
time by Senator Harkin (as it is today).
In my interview with Frank Wiewel, Wiewel had expressed great frustration
over the NIH's stonewalling on evaluations of alternative cancer treatment.
I asked Hall if his observations tallied with Wiewel's. Could he supply
an example, one not necessarily connected with NCCAM and cancer? A group
behavioral scientists, Hall replied, have been calling on the NIH every
year since 1999 to set up a scientific leadership organization for basic
research. The NIH responded by selecting 14 world-class scientists from
across the country and asking them to review the matter and report to the
This body – commissioned and selected by the NIH – came up
with a unanimous recommendation that scientific leadership be provided
for basic behavioral research.
By commissioning the report, Hall noted, the NIH seemed responsive to the
requests for action, but the effect was to delay provision of scientific
within the NIH for about two years while the report was being done. The
NIH probably was surprised and disappointed by the recommendation, which
support its apparent disinclination to set up a leadership organization.
In this matter, said Hall, "NIH continues to drag its feet."
The impression given me by the two people I had interviewed, I remarked
to Hall, plainly indicates that the NIH doesn't appreciate Congress ordering
its priorities. Hall confirmed my impression, recollecting that, in 1998,
Senator Harkin had spearheaded efforts by the Senate LHHSA Subcommittee
National Institutes on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. The
NIH objected to these efforts, contending that an institute on deafness
be an unnecessary additional bureaucracy. The LHHSA won this fight, said
The NIH now embraces the institute (whose budget will rise to $402.7 million
in fiscal year 2008); this is a typical pattern at the NIH, he noted. "Resist,
resist, then embrace!"
Bedell in his interview with me observed that he couldn't point to a
single alternative treatment investigated and validated by NCCAM (see here,
above). I wondered if Hall could. My firm, he said, represents the American
Liver Foundation (ALF), a group formed by physicians specializing in liver
disease. The ALF has been requesting data on alternative approaches from NCCAM
for several years. They are aware of efforts by NCCAM to confirm alternative
medical benefits for liver conditions and also aware that these efforts have
not yet shown definitive results. ALF has not criticized NCCAM because of this
So, NCCAM has a pulse. The NIH hasn't entirely throttled it. Several
lines by the German poet Bertholt Brecht spring to mind with regard to
sustaining NCCAM or cutting off life support. Brecht wrote them on the
eve of World
War II in a poem titled "To Posterity," a protest against the Nazi
government, in which he conveys the near futility of opposing a totalitarian
regime at the height of its power: "There was little I could do. But
without me/ the rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope."
Instead of snuffing out NCCAM, as Bedell would do to end a drain of taxpayers'
dollars into an operation that appears limp and dysfunctional, maybe Congress
let it breathe awhile. This would oblige the NIH to keep dealing with NCCAM,
making it harder for the NIH to forget NCCAM's Congressional mission: "to
investigate and validate alternative treatment." Closing the one NIH
center created to study CAM would leave the NIH free to inter this mission
NCCAM's critics claim that funds appropriated for NCCAM are awarded in
block grants to mainstream institutions with no history of research on alternative
care. I'm investigating whether this is true and whether the NIH is pulling
the strings here. I'm also looking into the projects supported by the
block grants to these mainstream institutions: do the grants pay for studies
on Complementary and Alternative Medicine exclusively? Do these institutions
siphon varying percentages of them into mainstream research?
People Against Cancer, 604 East Street, Otho, IA 50569-0010; Phone:
Fax: 515-972-4415; e-mail: Info@PeopleAgainstCancer.com; www.PeopleAgainstCancer.com.
2. For details, see Cohen MA, Special report on OAM & NCCAM,
re: unconventional cancer treatment, 1992-2007, Part 1. Townsend
3. National Foundation for Alternative Medicine, 5 Thomas Circle,
Suite 500, Washington DC 2005; Phone: 202-463-4900; e-mail: email@example.com;