Consumer Health Digest #02-04

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 22, 2002


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.


ABC News will report on "alternative" cancer treatments. On Thursday, January 24, ABC News PrimeTIME will air a 3-segment report on "alternative" cancer clinics in Tijuana, Mexico. The report features hidden-camera segments that expose what patients experience.


JAMA publishes negative chelation therapy study. Dr. D. George Wyse and colleagues at the University of Calgary have found that cardiac patients receiving chelation therapy fared no better than those who received placebo treatment. The patients were randomly assigned to get intravenous infusions twice weekly for 15 weeks and monthly treatments for 12 more weeks. Thirty-nine patients in each group completed the 27-week protocol and were followed for about six more months. The chelation and placebo groups showed no difference in exercise capacity or feelings of well-being, but both groups increased their ability to walk on a treadmill by an average of one minute. [Knudson ML and others. Chelation therapy for ischemic heart disease: a randomized, controlled trial. JAMA 287:481-486, 2002] Chelation therapy involves series of intravenous infusions containing disodium EDTA and various other substances. Its proponents falsely claim that it is effective against kidney and heart disease, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, emphysema, multiple sclerosis, gangrene, psoriasis, and many other serious conditions. Chelation therapy with calcium EDTA is one of several legitimate methods for treating cases of lead poisoning, but the protocol used by "chelation therapists" uses sodium EDTA and has no proven value. Dr. Wyse's study was designed with help from members of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), which is the main proponent organization. In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a consent decree barring ACAM from advertising that chelation is effective against cardiovascular disease or any other disease of the circulatory system. But the agreement permits ACAM members to continue to lie about its value.


U.S. Preventive Services Task Force report update. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has begun publishing its third (2000-2002) edition. The original task force was created in 1984 to determine what types of periodic physical examinations, laboratory tests, immunizations, counseling, and other measures are science-based and cost-effective. The second task force was convened in 1990. Their efforts culminated in two editions (1989 and 1996) of the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services that reflected the views of public health officials and hundreds of other experts. The 1996 version, which covers interventions for more than 80 potentially preventable diseases and conditions, is available on the USPSTF Web site in PDF format and on Columbia University's site in text format. Segments of the third edition will be published as they become available. The guidelines and checklists are intended primarily for use by physicians, but some will be easily understood by laypersons and some will be accompanied by summaries for patients.


Massachusetts medical board opposes naturopathic licensing. The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has approved a statement opposing licensure of naturopaths in Massachusetts. The statement, drafted by Arnold S. Relman, M.D., Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the New England Journal of Medicine, says:

Dr. Relman has also written a critical analysis of the Textbook of Natural Medicine, which appears to be the only comprehensive naturopathy textbook published in the United States during the past 20 years.


Iowa bans bogus breast-enlarger. An Iowa District Court Judge has permanently barred New Womyn, Inc., and its president, Dan Kaiser from marketing its Stimulations VII device within Iowa with claims that it can regrow breasts or cause breast enlargement. The defendants were also ordered to disclose their customer lists so that appropriate financial penalties can be assessed. The defendants remain free to market the device in other states. Quackwatch has posted additional details.


Anti-quackery classic (The Medical Messiahs) posted online. James Harvey Young's history of the government's struggle against quackery during the 20th century, is being posted to Quackwatch. Originally published in 1962, the book was reprinted with an addendum in 1992 and is now out of print. About half is now available; the rest will be posted within the next few weeks.


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This page was posted on January 22, 2002.