Consumer Health Digest #05-42
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 18, 2005
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.
CBS criticized for promoting unfounded thyroid notions. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) has complained to CBS about its promotion of Steven Hotze, M.D. Last month, on The Early Show, Hotze stated that (a) hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone) is a very common cause of fatigue, particularly in women older than 50; (b) hypothyroidism is diagnosed more accurately by analyzing the patient's symptoms than by doing blood tests; (c) the best medicine for treating hypothyroidism is desiccated thyroid; and (d) misdiagnosis and mistreatment of hypothyroid patients by doctors is very common. All of these statements are false. In a sharply worded letter to a senior executive producer, AACE's president, Bill Law Jr., M.D., said (in part):
Animal-derived desiccated thyroid, which Dr Hotze endorses and describes as "natural," is not a natural form of thyroid replacement for humans at all. It is an obsolete product obtained from ground-up cattle and pig thyroid glands. The chemical composition is quite variable. . . . This makes it extremely difficult for even a trained specialist to properly adjust the dose to fit each patient's needs. . . .
It is truly astonishing and puzzling that [The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler], an educated professional journalist on a national television' program, would not challenge the validity of Dr. Hotze's statements in any fashion. His self-serving performance amounted to a thinly veiled infomercial for his practice and book, and the fact that it was permitted, and even invited, does not reflect well on your network.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) is the country's largest professional organization of clinical endocrinologists. The full text of Dr. Law's letter is posted on Quackwatch.
In July, the Houston Press published a lengthy investigative report on Hotze's activities. [Malisow C. Steven Hotze uses a warm, easygoing manner to peddle natural hormones to women, at thousands of dollars a pop. So who cares about credentials or documented results? Houston Press, July 21, 2005]
Direct-to-consumer drug ads debated at Senate hearing. The American College of Physicians (ACP), which represents 119,000 doctors of internal medicine and medical students, would like Congress to ban direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs. On September 29, in testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Donna Sweet, M.D., chair of the ACP’s Board of Regents, charged that DTC advertising creates patient misperceptions, results in inefficient use of valuable physician time, challenges a physician’s professional authority, inflates drug costs, and can ultimately compromise patient access to lifesaving treatments. Presentations were also made by the FDA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Public Citizen's Health Research Group, and a University of California physician who investigated the impact of DTC ads on antidepressant prescribing. Their written testimony and a Webcast of the entire hearing are accessible via the committee's Web site.
Court bans "free prescriptions" scam. At the FTC's request, a U.S. District Court has issued a temporary retraining order barring MyFreeMedicine.com, LLC and its owner, Geoffrey Hasler ,from making deceptive claims that uninsured low-income consumers could get free prescription medication by paying a $199 fee. [Court halts deceptive "free prescription" claims. FTC news release, Oct 17, 2005] The court also froze the defendants' assets. According to the FTC:
- The defendants falsely promised to enable these consumers to receive free prescription medicine through patient assistance programs (PAPs) operated by drug companies.
- The defendants’ advertised that consumers could call a toll-free number to find out if they were eligible for free medications through PAPs. Callers were routinely told that they were eligible.
- Callers were falsely told that the company dealt directly with drug companies and that the federal government and would provide the medication directly to consumers or their doctors. However, the defendants merely provided PAP application forms for submission to the drug companies.
- After paying for a six-month enrollment in defendants’ program, many consumers learned that they were not eligible for a PAP program or that their medications were not available from a PAP.
- Contrary to promises on their Web site and in telephone conversations, the defendants routinely denied refund requests from consumers who were unable to obtain their medications through their program.
Tennessee medical board limits chelation therapy. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has issued a policy statement that the use or advertising of EDTA chelation therapy or intravenous hydrogen peroxide therapy for unapproved uses will be considered grounds for disciplinary action unless the treatment is administered as part of an approved study at an academic medical center. [Position Statement: Alternative medicine or procedures without evidence of scientifically proven benefit. . . Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, March 1, 2005]
Rheumatologists skeptical of "natural" remedies. The American College of Rheumatology has posted a fact sheet on the use of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), glucosamine sulfate, and other dietary supplements and herbal products for treating arthritis. The document cautions:
- There is no scientific basis for claims that natural remedies are as effective as conventional medicines and safer.
- The effects of natural remedies on the body are similar to those of conventional medications.
- Because the FDA has little oversight of natural products, they are poorly standardized, may contain undisclosed prescription medications, and can cause serious side effects.
- In view of the lack of information about quality control, safety and effectiveness, the use of herbal remedies is not recommended.
Institute of Medicine's "CAM" report blasted. Medscape General Medicine has published a critical review by Dr. Stephen Barrett of the National Academies of Sciences' recent report on "complementary and alternative medicine." The review concludes:
This is not a scientific report. It fulfilled self-serving questions asked by the sponsoring agency (NCCAM). It avoided the scientific questions that one expects the National Academies to address. It was prepared by a combination of individuals with economic conflicts of interest, ideologic devotion to the methods at issue, and a small number of academics who lack experience in detecting pseudoscience and misrepresentation. The report's only redeeming feature is its acknowledgment that the dietary supplement market is a mess. However, instead of concluding that the FDA cannot protect consumers unless the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 is repealed and the FDA is given powerful new tools, the committee made vague suggestions for "strengthening" it. [Barrett S. Book review: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. MedGenMed, Oct 18, 2005]
This page was posted on October 18, 2005.