Consumer Health Digest #07-47
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 4, 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.
Policies suggested to improve America's health status. The New England Journal of Medicine has published two significant views on how Americans can improve their health status. The first author stated that among 192 nations for which 2004 data are available, the United States ranked 46th in average life expectancy from birth and 42nd in infant mortality. Noting that "the low U.S. international ranking in health can be attributed primarily to behaviors such as tobacco use and overeating," he suggested that the best strategy for overall improvement would be to expand efforts to change these behaviors. [Schroeder SA. We can do better—Improving the health of the American people. New England Journal of Medicine 357:1221-1228, 2007] The second view was a brief response which stated:
. . . . Changing the policies that promote unhealthy behavior and lifestyles may be more effective than seeking to alter habits one person at a time. For example, each year, the tobacco, food, and alcohol industries spend billions of dollars to persuade Americans to consume their products in ways demonstrated to cause illness and premature death. The automobile, firearms, and pharmaceutical industries hire thousands of lobbyists and contribute tens of millions of dollars to encourage legislators to resist or weaken legislation that would impose more stringent health safeguards on their products. Voters and physicians should insist that the government protect public health against the special interests that profit from the lethal but legal products that impose such a heavy burden. Only then will the United States achieve the improvements in health that Schroeder advocates. [Freudenberg N. Shattuck lecture: Improving American health. NEJM 357:2045, 2007]
Doubt cast on value of spinal manipulation and NSAIDS for acute back pain. Australian researchers found that neither spinal manipulation or the drug diclofenac hastened recovery of acute low-back pain patients who had been properly counseled by their primary physician and prescribed paracetamol for pain relief. The study involved 240 patients who received either (a) diclofenac plus spinal manipulation, (b) diclofenac and sham spinal manipulation, (c) spinal manipulation and a placebo pill, or (d) sham manipulation plus a placebo pill. About half recovered within two weeks and nearly all recovered within three months. [Hancock MJ and others. Assessment of diclofenac or spinal manipulative therapy, or both, in addition to recommended first-line treatment for acute low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Lancet 370:1638-1643, 2007] Diclofenac is a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID). Paracetamol is a pain-reliever marketed in the United States as acetominophen or Tylenol. An accompanying editorial noted:
- Systematic reviews had concluded that NSAIDS and spinal manipulation were more effective than placebos. However, the patients in the reviewed studies did not have optimum first-line care, and the apparent benefit was not large.
- Advice to remain active and prescription of paracetamol will be sufficient for most patients with acute low back pain. [Koes BW. Evidence-based management of acute low back pain. Lancet 370:1595-1596, 2007]
Chelation promoter charged with unprofessional conduct. Rashid A. Buttar, D.O., who operates the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in central North Carolina, has been charged with exploiting four patients by charging exorbitant fees for worthless tests and treatments. The complaint states:
- All four patients received frequent, expensive treatments that had no recognized scientific evidence of any validity whatsoever on almost a daily basis without any evidence of sustained improvement.
- To drive up costs, Buttar ordered lab work and other tests that had no rational, medical relationship to the patients’ diagnoses.
- Three of the patients had cancers that eventually killed them. They received intravenous treatments with various substances that have no known value for the treatment of cancer. The substances included EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), chromium, certain vitamins, and hydrogen peroxide. The total fees for these patients ranged from about $25,000 to $32,000.
- The fourth patient, who had a history colon polyps, was not seen by Buttar but was given chelation therapy administered by a clinic nurse practitioner.
The North Carolina Medical Board has scheduled a hearing on these charges in February 2008. Buttar is Chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology (ABCMT) and president of the North Carolina Integrative Medical Society (NCIMS). The ABMCT, which is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, "certifies" chelation therapists. The NCIMS was formed in 2003 with the hope of protecting "integrative" doctors from disciplinary action by the state medical board.
This page was revised on December 5, 2007.