$200M donation to UC Irvine for alternative therapy meets criticism

Critics are citing concerns over the $200 million donation to University of California Irvine that will launch a new health program to promote integrative medicine, which combines alternative medicine, such as preventive medicine, therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, with conventional medicine, according to STAT.

"This is ultimately a very bad thing. It's putting emphasis and the imprimatur of a university on things that have been discarded as medical fraud for 50 years," Steven Novella, MD, a neurologist at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University, told STAT.

Other individuals in academia are raising red flags as well, including Tim Caulfield, a Canada-based University of Alberta health law professor, who argues the donation will legitimize invalid practices.

Despite the criticism, the leaders behind the initiative, Howard Federoff, MD, PhD, CEO of UC Irvine's health system and Shaista Malik, MD, the director of UC Irvine's Center for Integrative Medicine, defended their approach.  Drs. Federoff and Malik argue that since so many people seek alternative care, it means conventional medicine has lapses.

In addition, the leaders behind the initiative claimed other medical schools were too slow to adopt alternative therapies that revealed promise in clinical trials. They further defended exploring alternative medicine, suggesting it was time to transform healthcare to focus on a patient's full range of needs rather than just treating an illness, according to the report.

"We take patient safety as our highest calling and we will never deploy any approach — integrative or not — that put patients at risk. Any non-proven or non-evidence based approach? We will not deploy it," Dr. Howard told STAT.

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