Consumer Health Digest #07-27

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 17, 2007


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.


Legislator bribed by chiropractors sentenced to prison. James Boyce Black, a/k/a Jim Black, has been sentenced to 63 months in federal prison and fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to one felony count of corruptly accepting things of value concerning programs receiving federal funds. The offense involved taking about $25,000 in cash from three chiropractors in exchange for backing legislation favorable to their profession. The payments were made between 2000 and 2005 when Black was Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. During the 2005 legislative session, Black facilitated passage of a bill that prohibited insurance companies from requiring patients to pay higher co-payments for visits to chiropractors than for visits to physicians. The law was repealed two months after Black pled guilty. Chirobase has additional information and links to the pertinent documents.


Breast cancer survival unaffected by diet. A randomized trial has found that, among survivors of early stage breast cancer, adoption of a diet that was very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat did not reduce additional breast cancer events or mortality during a 7.3-year follow-up period. The intervention group (1537 women) was randomly assigned to receive a telephone counseling program supplemented with cooking classes and newsletters that promoted daily targets of 5 vegetable servings plus 16 oz of vegetable juice; 3 fruit servings; 30 g of fiber; and 15% to 20% of energy intake from fat. The comparison group (1551 women) was provided with print materials describing the "5-A-Day" dietary guidelines. [Pierce JP and others. Influence of a diet very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat on prognosis following treatment for breast cancer. JAMA 298:289-298, 2007] The full text is available online.


Study finds "abstinence only" programs ineffective. A study of four abstinence education programs has found that none had any effect on either abstinence or the incidence of unprotected sex. The study found that youth in these programs were no more likely than other youth to have abstained from sex in the four to six years after they began participating in the study. Those in both groups who reported having had sex also had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same average age. The programs studied were My Choice, My Future! in Powhatan County, Virginia; ReCapturing the Vision in Miami, Florida; Teens in Control in Clarksdale, Mississippi; and Families United to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Trenholm C and others. Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., April 2007] Nationwide, more than 700 programs receive up to $50 million annually from the federal government in order to teach youth about abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has been a relentless critic of such programs. In 2004, for example, he reported that more than two-thirds of them "distort information about the effectiveness of contraception, misrepresent the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, treat stereotypes about boys and girls as scientific fact, and contain basic scientific errors." [Federally funded abstinence-only programs teach false and misleading information. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Dec 1, 2004]


Web site attacks AIDs denialism. AIDStruth.org presents the scientific evidence that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of AIDS and that the benefits of treating infected persons with antiretroviral drugs outweigh the risks. The site was created by research scientists and community advocates engaged in the worldwide struggle against HIV/AIDS. The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clear-cut and meets the highest standards of science. However, a few vocal people--so called AIDS denialists--refuse to acknowledge the facts and continue to conduct a misleading propaganda campaign aimed at convincing people, including HIV-infected individuals and government health officials, that the virus is harmless (or, in some extreme cases, non-existent), and that standard medical practice should be abandoned. Such information is dangerous because it may (encourage use of untested remedies and (b) counteract efforts to promote safe sexual practices. AIDSTruth.org provides news and detailed rebuttals to to denialist claims.


Eureca Institute operator convicted of unlicensed practice. Grace Hua Wu, 51, of Fullerton, California has pleaded guilty to one count of unlicensed physical therapy at her Anaheim business, the Eureca Institute. Government action was triggered by a complaint that she had broken the foot of a 4-year-old boy. An expert consultant who reviewed documents seized during a search concluded that the treatment was far beneath established standards and that information on patients' charts and records was often incomplete or so general that it could apply to all patients. [Owner of Anaheim’s Eureca Institute convicted in illegal therapy case. [California Department of Consumer Affairs press release, March 9, 2007] In 2003, Wu was cited administratively for unlicensed practice and fined $2,500. The institute's program includes questionable exercise methods (e.g., suit therapy and sunbeam therapy) that are claimed to improve balance, coordination, and fluency of speech in children with cerebral palsy, stroke, and other types of brain injury.


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