Consumer Health Digest #11-07
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 31, 2011
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.
Supreme Court blocks end run around vaccine court. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld lower court rulings that people who claim they were injured by improperly designed vaccines must rely solely on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and may not sue manufacturers. The VICP is a federal program enacted in 1986 (and since amended) that was designed as a no-fault lternative to the tort system to deal with an epidemic of lawsuits that threatened the continued availability of childhood vaccines nationwide. Rather than suing a manufacture or provider through the civil tort system, claimants must petition for compensation with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The case before the court—Bruesewitz v. Wyeth—was brought by the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz, who had received DPT vaccine as an infant in 1992 and subsequently developed seizures. The Bruesewitz's filed a VICP claim that was rejected on grounds that they failed to prove that the vaccine had caused the seizures. The Supreme Court's decision is posted to Casewatch.
IOM proposes standards for systematic reviews and practice guidelines. The Institute of Medicine has proposed standards for systematic literature reviews and the development of clinical practice guidelines. The reports were generated by concerns that poor quality reviews can lead practitioners to wrong conclusions and ultimately to inappropriate treatment decisions. Books that explain the guidelines can be read free of charge or ordered at discounted prices on the IOM Web site. [IOM recommends standards to achieve reliable clinical practice guidelines and high-quality systematic reviews of evidence. National Academies Press, News release, March 23, 2011]
2011 Pigasus Awards announced. The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF has announced its 2011 Pigasus Awards, which have been given annually on April Fool's Day since 1997 to promoters of nonsense. This year's notables include:
- The Funder Pigasus Award goes to CVS/pharmacy, for their work to support the manufacturers of scam "homeopathic" medications by selling them in thousands of stores across the U.S., alongside real medicine, with no warning to consumers.
- The Media Pigasus Award goes to Mehmet Oz, M.D., who is first person to win a Pigasus two years in a row. Oz, a Harvard-educated cardiac surgeon, has promoted alleged communication with the dead, faith healing, "energy medicine," and other practices that have no basis in reality.
- The Performer Pigasus Award—this year for "Best Comeback"—goes to televangelist Peter Popoff. Popoff made millions in the 1980s by pretending to heal the sick and receive information about audience members directly from God. He went bankrupt in 1987 after JREF founder James Randi exposed him for using a secret earpiece to receive information about audience members from his wife. Now he's raking in millions by offering "supernatural debt relief" in exchange for donations.
- The Refusal to Face Reality Award goes to Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who launched the modern anti-vaccine panic with unfounded statements linking the MMR vaccine with autism that were not borne out by any research, even his own.
New book explodes MLM deceptions. Jon M. Taylor, M.B.A. Ph.D. has published THE CASE (FOR AND) AGAINST MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING: The Complete Guide to Understanding and Countering the Effects of Endless Chain Selling and Product-based Pyramid Schemes. The book's introduction states:
- MLM as a business model is predicated on an endless chain of recruitment, as are "pay to play" chain letters and no-product pyramid schemes.
- Every one of the compensation plans of hundreds of MLMs Taylor has analyzed assumes an infinite and virgin market, neither of which exist in the real world. MLM is therefore fundamentally flawed, uneconomic, and deceptive.
- Loss rates are extraordinary—over 99% for all of the MLMs for which Taylor has been able to obtain relevant data.
This page was revised on April 3, 2011.