Consumer Health Digest #01-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 7, 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.


Massage beats acupuncture for back pain. Researchers who compared acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and self-care education for persistent back pain have reported that acupuncture was relatively ineffective. The study involved 252 patients who were randomized into three groups. After 10 weeks, massage scored highest. After a year, is was not better than self-care but was still better than acupuncture. [Cherkin DC and others. Randomized trial comparing traditional Chinese medical acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and self-care education for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine 161:1081-1088, 2001]


Reflexology flunks test as asthma remedy. A controlled trial of 20 patients and 20 control subjects has found no evidence that reflexology has a specific effect on asthma beyond placebo influence. The patients received 10 weeks of active or simulated (placebo) treatment. Objective lung function tests (peak flow morning and evening, and weekly spirometry at the clinic) did not change. Subjective scores (describing symptoms, [beta]2-inhalations, and quality of life) and also bronchial sensitivity to histamine improved equally on both regimens. About half of the patients guessed which group they were in. [Brygge T and others. Reflexology and bronchial asthma. Respiratory Medicine 95:173-179, 2001]


Negative homeopathic study. A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of 87 healthy volunteers has tested whether an ultramolecular product would bring about symptoms different from observation and placebo. The subjects were observed for 2 weeks and then received either a 30C belladonna product or a placebo. (At that dilution, no molecule of the so-called "active" substance is likely to be encountered.) The average number of reported symptoms—24.3 during the observation period, 27.3 associated with taking the product, and 24.2 associated with taking the placebo—was not statistically significant. The authors concluded that symptoms produced during homeopathic provings are most likely to be chance fluctuations. Walach H and others. The effects of homeopathic belladonna 30CH in healthy volunteers: A randomized, double-blind experiment. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 50:155-160, 2001]


Negative "spiritual healing" study. A trial of patients with chronic pain has found no benefit from "spiritual healing" sessions. The trial included face-to-face healing or simulated face-to-face healing for 30 minutes per week for 8 weeks (part I); and distant healing or no healing for 30 minutes per week for 8 weeks (part II). No significant difference in pain scores was reported between the healing and control groups. [Abbot NC and others. Spiritual healing as a therapy for chronic pain: A randomized, clinical trial. Pain 91:79-89, 2001]


Low-dose oral contraceptives increase heart attack risk in heavy smokers. Oral contraceptives (OCs) containing 50 micrograms (µg) or more of estrogen have been known for many years to increase the risk of heart attacks (myocardial infarction) among smokers, particularly if they smoked 25 or more cigarettes per day. A large, 14-year case control study has concluded that lower-dosage OCs (35 µg to 49 µg) have a similar risk (about 32 times that of nonsmokers). The results are based on data from 627 women under 45 who had suffered a nonfatal heart attack and 2,947 women under 45 who had been hospitalized for other reasons. [Rosenberg L and others. Low-dose oral contraceptive use and the risk of myocardial infarction. Archives of Internal Medicine 161:1065-1070, 2001]


FTC supports anti-spam legislation. On April 26, the Federal Trade Commission told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that it favors legislation to limit junk e-mail by allowing consumers to refuse to receive it and imposing penalties on those who ignore the consumers' choice. The agency is concerned about the widespread use of junk e-mail to disseminate false and misleading claims about products and services offered through the Internet. Since January 1998, over 8.3 million pieces of unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) have been forwarded to the Commission since January 1998, and agency's UCE mailbox (uce@FTC.gov) receives an average of 10,000 new pieces of UCE every day. The CAN SPAM Act of 2001 (S. 630), introduced by committee chairman Conrad R. Burns (R-MT), would require:

The bill would also make it unlawful to send subsequent e-mail to a consumer who had requested that they receive no further e-mail or to send e-mail with a false header or misleading subject lines. S. 630 also includes a multi-faceted enforcement scheme and would allow other federal agencies, Internet Service Providers, and Attorneys General enforcement authority to obtain injunctions against violations and to recover damages. [FTC supports legislation to limit junk e-mail: Proliferation of deceptive e-mail poses threat to consumer confidence agency says. News release, April 26, 2001.] Senator Burns also co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Internet Caucus, which has over 150 members.


Ritalin suit dismissed with sanctions. A federal judge in San Diego has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the American Psychiatric Association and the patient-support group Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) had illegally conspired with the Ritalin's manufacturer to promote the drug for treating children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The judge also ordered the plaintiffs to pay the defendants' legal fees. The case was dismissed with prejudice, which prohibits it from being refiled. The judge concluded that the complaint had no legal basis and that the defendants's activities to advance medical understanding and treatment of AD/HD were free speech protected under California's SLAPP statute. Last month, the judge said that he would dismiss the suit unless the plaintiffs allege and can demonstrate that they have been victimized by any conduct or damage. Rather than attempting to correct their complaint, the plaintiffs announced their intent to appeal the judge's verdict. Similar suits are pending in New Jersey and Texas.


FTC attacks claims for alleged anti-snoring throat spray (Snorenz). The principal marketers of Snorenz, a throat spray claimed to eliminate snoring, have settled FTC charges that they lacked adequate substantiation for their claims. The consent agreements include the manufacturer (Med Gen, Inc., of Boca Raton, Florida, and its principal, Paul Kravitz) and an infomercial maker (that Tru-Vantage International, LLC, based in Niles, Illinois). The agreements forbid the parties from making unsubstantiated claims that Snorenz or any other food, drug, or dietary supplement reduces or eliminates snoring or eliminates, reduces, or mitigates the symptoms of sleep apnea. Snorenz is a throat spray consisting of oils and vitamins. Snorenz was promoted through 30-minute infomercials produced first by Tru-Vantage International and later by Med Gen itself. The product claims also appeared on its labels, on Med Gen's website, and on many other Web sites. [Promoters of dietary supplement that purports to treat snoring agree to settle FTC charges. FTC news release, March 29, 2001]


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This page was posted on May 7, 2001.