Consumer Health Digest #10-24

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 17, 2010


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.


Senate hearing highlights supplement industry problems. The Senate's Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on May 26 to discuss the safety of dietary supplements. The hearing, titled "Dietary Supplements: What Seniors Need to Know," highlighted concerns with current enforcement of dietary supplement safety standards.

Shortly before the hearing, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Dietary Supplement Full Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2010 (S.3414) to increase the FDA's regulatory power. Ironically, most of the FDA's difficulty in protecting against herbal and dietary supplement problems are due to the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994, which Hatch and Harkin shepherded through Congress. Quackwatch has summarized the testimony and posted links to the relevant full reports and a video of the hearing.


Antivaccination claims skewered. Infectious disease specialist Mark Crislip, M.D., has written a devastating critique of misinformation on the Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center Web site of the International Medical Council on Vaccination. His article debunks the "core claim" in 20 posted articles by various authors. [Crislip M. Medical Voices: Always in error, never in doubt. Science-Based Medicine Blog, June 18, 2010]


NCCAM / OCCAM defunding urged. Steven Salzberg, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Maryland, College Park, believes that the National Institutes of Health should stop promoting pseudoscience. In a recent blog, he states:

This past week, President Obama called on all federal agencies to voluntarily propose budget cuts of 5%. Well, Mr. President, you might be surprised to learn that there's a way for you that cut the National Institutes of Health budget without hurting biomedical research. In fact, it will help. Here's my proposal: save over $240 million per year in the NIH budget by cutting all funding for the two centers that fund alternative medicine research—the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Both of them exist primarily to promote pseudoscience. [Salzberg S. Save taxpayer $$$: Eliminate alternative medicine research. Forbes.com, June 18, 2010]


Leading skeptic dies. Martin Gardner, a leading debunker of pseudoscience, has died at the age of 95. [Martin D. Martin Gardner, puzzler And polymath, dies At 95. New York Times, May 23, 2010]


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This page was revised on June 19, 2010.