FAIM was formed in 1986 “as a voice for innovative medicine’s professionals, physicians, patients, and suppliers.” Now headquartered in Suffern, New York, it has about 3,000 members.
FAIM defines innovative medicine as “a treatment or therapy of empirical benefit that is yet outside the mainstream of conventional medicine.” (A better way to describe it would be quackery under a new name.) The mission statement on FAIM’s Web site states:
FAIM’s first goal is the development of a membership to serve both as a forum for exchange and a constituency for change. The second is to educate both those within thefield and the general public as to the benefits and issues of innovative medicine. The third goal is to secure freedom of choice and guaranteed reimbursements for the patients, be it through legislation, litigation, or negotiation with state agencies and insurance companies. And lastly, in laying the groundwork for a climate receptive to medical innovation, we encourage the research and development of promising new approaches.
FAIM’s magazine, Innovation, has carried articles promoting “alternative” cancer therapies, chelation therapy, homeopathy, shark cartilage for arthritis and for protection against tumor growth, and an oral bacterial preparation for chronic fatigue syndrome. One article has described how to sue insurance companies in small claims court when they deny claims for “complementary” treatment. Other articles have blasted fluoridation, mercury-amalgam fillings, and sugar (for allegedly causing digestive problems).
FAIM’s educational fund (FAIM ED) was incorporated in 1991 “to promote the American health care consumer’s access to information and education regarding health care alternatives” and “to support promising research projects that may not currently be the focus of government and private efforts.” Each year, FAIM (and/or FAIM ED) sponsors several symposia featuring prominent practitioners and promoters of “alternative” medicine. Exhibitors at these meetings have included marketers of supplements, homeopathic remedies, herbs, and other products, many of which are promoted with unsubstantiated claims.
FAIM’s current board of trustees includes seven medical doctors, two osteopaths, and one dentist. The board’s president is Michael Schachter, M.D., a psychiatrist who operates a large clinic in Suffern, N.Y. FAIM’s past-president and cofounder is Robert C. Atkins, M.D., who operates a large clinic, hosts a radio talk show, publishes a newsletter, markets supplement products, and has written several books on his unconventional methods. In February 1998, FAIM’s Web site listed 118 professional members, almost all of whom practiced in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Their fields included medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, dentistry, acupuncture, naturopathy, psychology, and social work. In September 1999, the list contained only 51.
In 1994, FAIM persuaded the New York State legislature to enact the Alternative Medical Practice Act, which enables “unconventional” practitioners participate in the judging of colleagues who are accused of professional misconduct. This bill is intended to protect FAIM’s professional members by placing several on the state board that has the power to revoke licenses. Currently it is lobbying for a bill and for special administrative procedures that would force insurance companies to pay for unconventional treatments such as chelation therapy.
This article was revised on September 21, 1999.