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From the Townsend Letter
November 2007


Townsend's New York Observer
Special Report on OAM & NCCAM
Re: Unconventional Cancer Treatment, 1992-2007 (Part Two
by Marcus A. Cohen

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This is Part Two of a special report about the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Part One appeared in(the print version of) Townsend Letter's August/September 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 to "investigate 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 the 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 do what appeared 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 NIH directors?

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 searching 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 to CAM.
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."

The 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 symptoms return, the patient 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 story shorter, he took something like 200 capsules in the next few days. But he no longer has trouble with allergies. I should say that the capsules have some herbs in them in addition to the bee pollen.

Closing Thoughts
Former Congressman Berkley Bedell and Frank Wiewel, founder and director of People Against Cancer (PAC), had been influential in creating OAM. (See Part 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 that 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, a government relations firm in DC. Back in 1992, Hall was staff director of the Senate Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations (LHHSA) Subcommittee, chaired at the 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 of behavioral scientists, Hall replied, have been calling on the NIH every year since 1999 to set up a scientific leadership organization for basic behavioral 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 NIH Director. This body – commissioned and selected by the NIH – came up with a unanimous recommendation that scientific leadership be provided at NIH 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 leadership within the NIH for about two years while the report was being done. The NIH probably was surprised and disappointed by the recommendation, which didn't 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 to create the National Institutes on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. The NIH objected to these efforts, contending that an institute on deafness would be an unnecessary additional bureaucracy. The LHHSA won this fight, said Hall. 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 situation.

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 should 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 with NCCAM.

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?

1. People Against Cancer, 604 East Street, Otho, IA 50569-0010; Phone: 515-972-4444; Fax: 515-972-4415; e-mail:;
2. For details, see Cohen MA, Special report on OAM & NCCAM, re: unconventional cancer treatment, 1992-2007, Part 1.
Townsend Letter. August/September 2007.
3. National Foundation for Alternative Medicine, 5 Thomas Circle, Suite 500, Washington DC 2005; Phone: 202-463-4900; e-mail:;


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