Consumer Health Digest #08-43

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 21, 2008


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.


Cholesterol-lowering "dietary supplements" pose serious problems. ConsumerLab.com has found that the amounts of the cholesterol-lowering substance in ten red yeast rice products sold as dietary supplements varied by more than 100-fold, with some products providing as much as prescription medication and others containing very little. The tests also found that four of the products contained citrinin, which can cause kidney damage. [Product review: Red yeast rice supplements. ConsumerLab.Com, July 18, 2008] Red yeast rice contains the cholesterol-lowering statin compound lovastatin, the active ingredient in prescription Mevacor. Although lovastatin is a very useful drug, it is not suitable for self-medication because optimal cholesterol-control should be tailored to individual risk factors and be medically monitored. The FDA has ordered at least eight marketers to stop marketing red yeast rice products for cholesterol control. However, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 permits their sale as "dietary supplements."


Heimlich associate loses groundless libel suit. A federal court judge has dismissed a libel suit brought by Edward Patrick, M.D. against the Cleveland Scene newspaper and Thomas Francis, a writer whose cover story, "Playing Doctor," had accused Patrick of lying about his professional experience. Patrick is board-certified in emergency medicine, based on a one-year residency program followed by credit for practice. However, critics believe he did not complete residency training. The newspaper article also questioned the veracity of data from Patrick that were used to establish the Heimlich maneuver. as a method for treating choking. The judge concluded that Patrick misrepresented the extent of his medical training and failed to present credible information to rebut other accusations made in the article. Patrick is appealing the dismissal.


Study finds vitamin C interferes with anti-cancer drugs. Laboratory studies have found that vitamin C may interfere with the effectiveness of five anti-cancer drugs. First, the researchers gave a vitamin C product to cancer cells that were treated with chemotherapy and found that the 30% to 70% fewer cancer cells were killed. Then they injected mice with cancer cells, administered chemotherapy, and found that cells grew into tumors much faster in the mice that received pre-treatment vitamin C. The researchers warned that although results in animals are not necessarily applicable to humans, vitamin C supplementation during cancer treatment may interfere with the effect of chemotherapy. [Heaney ML and others. Vitamin C antagonizes the cytotoxic effects of antineoplastic drugs. Cancer Research 68:8031-8038, 2008] This study reinforces doubts that vitamin C will find practical use as a cancer drug. [Barrett S. High doses of vitamin C are not effective as a cancer treatment. Quackwatch, Oct 24, 2008]


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This page was posted on October 24, 2008.