Consumer Health Digest #06-12
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 21, 2006
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.
Study gives local health news poor ratings. The first major study of local health news has concluded that most of it has little or no practical value. [Pribble JM and others. Medical news for the public to use? What's on local TV news. American Journal of Managed Care 12:170-176, 2006] Dr. Stephen Barrett believes that (a) brief news reports rarely help the decision-making process, (b) publications that integrate health news with what is already known are far more valuable, and (c) Consumer Reports on Health is the most trustworthy such source.
Philip Morris must pay $80+ million to smoker's widow. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review lower court rulings obligating Philip Morris to pay $5.54 million in compensatory damages, $50 million in punitive damages, and more than $26 million in interest to a smoker's widow. The Los Angeles Times states that this will be the largest payment by a tobacco company to an individual, but that legal victories by individuals against tobacco companies have been rare. The original jury awarded $3 billion in punitive damages in 2001 after finding the company guilty of fraud, negligence, misrepresentation, and selling a defective product, but the amount was reduced to $100 million by the trial judge and $50 million by the California Court of Appeals. [Levin M. Widow's legal battle with Philip Morris ends. Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2006]
Organic hype challenged. The online magazine Slate has debunked three slogans used to promote "organic" foods at the Whole Foods supermarkets in New York City. The article notes:
- "Save energy" is misleading because it takes far more energy to transport "organically grown" tomatoes from Chile than to transport conventionally grown tomatoes from New Jersey.
- "Help the Small Farmer" is misleading because most of the organic food grown in the United States comes from a few large California farms. Although many small, family-run organic farms exist, their market share and representation at Whole Foods are minuscule.
- "Our Commitment to the Local Farmer" is misleading because few products are obtained locally and "grower profiles" depict organic farmers whose products are not on the shelves. [Maloney F. Is Whole Foods wholesome? The dark secrets of the organic-food movement. Slate, March 17, 2006]
Young Life Research Clinic closes. In October 2005, Gary Young announced that he was moving his clinic from Springville, Utah to Ecuador where the "constitution promotes and supports natural and traditional medicine.” Young, who obtained a naturopathic "degree" from a nonaccredited correspondence school, operated his clinic on the fringes of the law by including licensed practitioners on its staff. However, in 2004, the Utah Attorney General charged an unlicensed employee, Barbara Tarwater, with practicing medicine without a license by admiistering diagnostic tests and prescribing products to patients between October 2000 until May 2002. The Attorney General's petition stated that Tarwater had (a) represented herself as a "master herbalist"; (b) engaged in iridology, live-cell analyses, and applied kinesiology muscle tests; and (c) had prescribed or administered essential oils, herbal products, raindrop therapy, colonic irrigation, and intravenous vitamin treatment. The matter was settled after Tarwater stated in a letter that she had left the clinic, was pursuing nonmedical interests, and would never again diagnose or prescribe. Young's activities are detailed on Quackwatch.
Air abrasion dentist's revocation upheld. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has denied the appeal of Lee R. Krahenbuhl, D.D.S., owner/operator of the Advanced Care Smile Centers in Appleton and Oshkosh. The Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board revoked Krahenbuhl's license in July 2004 after concluding that he had falsely diagnosed 13 cavities in a patient. This was the third time that the Board disciplined him for misrepresentation. In 1993, it suspended his license for 30 days based on a criminal conviction for insurance fraud. In 2002, he was disciplined in connection with faulty root canal treatment and misrepresenting that an x-ray film was the patient's post-treatment film. In that case, the Board suspended his license for six months, fined him $5,000, banned him from doing more root-canal work, and required his practice to be monitored by another dentist for at least two years. Dental Watch has additional information about Krahenbuhl.
This page was revised on March 22, 2006.