Consumer Health Digest #01-16
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 16, 2001
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
E-mail distribution of Consumer Health Digest delayed. The digest's Internet service provider was shut down for a week for upgrading of its servers. The stoppage also stopped delivery of the healthfraud discusslist. Both have been restored.
FTC warns about Internet fraud. On April 4, 2001, in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, a Federal Trade Commission official stated:
- The growth of the Internet promises enormous benefits to consumers and the economy, but these benefits may not be fully realized if consumers identify the Internet with fraud operators
- Because the Internet transcends national boundaries, law enforcement authorities must be more creative and cooperative if we are to succeed in combating online fraud.
- Internet technology is the latest draw for opportunistic predators who specialize in fraud. In 2000, over 25,000 complaints—roughly 26% of all fraud complaints logged into Consumer Sentinel (the FTC's fraud database) by various organizations that year—were related to online deception.
- The need—and the challenge—is to act quickly to stem this trend while the online marketplace is still young.
- Since 1994, the agency has brought 170 Internet related cases against over 573 defendants, obtained many injunctions, ordered more than $180 million in redress, and obtained orders freezing millions more in cases that are still in litigation.
Six companies will try subsidizing e-mail medical advice. Cisco System, Oracle Corporation, Adobe Systems, Cadence Design Systems, NEC Electronics, and another Silicon Valley company have set up a pilot program to will pay doctors $20 per e-mail "visit" involving a non-urgent health matter. The program, which is scheduled to last 6 to 8 months, is expected to involve 2,000 employees and 100 doctors [Chin T. Pilot project to pay for e-mail "visits." American Medical News April 9, 2000] Meanwhile, the Medem coalition of major medical groups has issued guidelines to help physicians provide appropriate service and limit their malpractice risks. [eRisk for Providers: Understanding and Mitigating Provider Risk Associated with Online Patient Interaction. San Francisco: Medem, Inc., March 2001.]
Documents discredit Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D. Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D., who investigated and later adopted the dubious cancer treatment methods of William Donald Kelley, D.D.S., has stated that his investigation was supervised over a long period by the prominent cancer specialist and educator Robert A. Good, M.D., Ph.D. However, documents from the library of NCAHF's recently deceased president John H. Renner, M.D., indicate that although Good provided advice, he was extremely skeptical of Kelley's work and repeatedly asked Gonzalez to stop using his name and reputation to "promulgate a treatment that may be pure quackery." [Good RA. Letters to Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D., Feb 27, 1988; Dec 8, 1988; June 12, 1989; and to John H. Renner, M.D., Aug 20, 1991.] Gonzalez typically prescribes up to150 dietary supplement pills a day plus frequent coffee enemas.
California judge doubts validity of Ritalin lawsuit. Nearly identical class-action lawsuits charging that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Novartis Pharmaceuticals have conspired to create the attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a way to build a market for Ritalin were filed last year in California, New Jersey, and Texas. The suits allege that the APA and Novartis conspired to define attention deficit disorder (ADD) and later ADHD in the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual too broadly and thus boost sales of the drug. The suits also charge that Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) also conspired as a result of receiving substantial financial support from Novartis. On March 12, 2001, a San Diego U.S. District Court judge said he would dismiss the California suit unless the plaintiffs allege and can demonstrate that they have been victimized by any conduct or damage. To avoid dismissal, they must provide the court with evidence that they have been damaged by false statements made by the defendants. [Hausman J. Judge cites weakness of Ritalin suit, threatens to dismiss it. American Psychiatric News, April 8, 2001.] The APA has stated a mountain of evidence validates the diagnosis and treatment and has called the allegations "ludicrous and totally false." An APA official has also noted that the discovery that stimulant drugs can benefit certain children was made in the 1930s, long before Ritalin and the currently used diagnostic terms were developed. The California and New Jersey suits were brought by attorneys who successfully took on the tobacco industry in the 1990s. The Texas suit was filed by a firm that also represents parents who allege that a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines caused their children to become autistic.
This page was posted on April 16, 2001.