Consumer Health Digest #11-33
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 6, 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.
Steve Jobs was a quackery victim. Steve Jobs, the ultrasuccessful Apple Computer CEO who died this week of pancreatic cancer, delayed recommended surgery for nine months while treating himself with a diet. Although Jobs stated publicly that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, a Fortune Magazine reporter learned that Jobs was actually diagnosed in 2003 with a rare form of pancreatic cancer that has a high cure rate if treated early. But instead of undergoing the operation, he relied on worthless dietary treatment. [Elkind P. The trouble with Steve Jobs. Fortune Magazine, March 8, 2008] It may be impossible to determine whether the delay decreased his survival time and quality of life. But it is clear that whatever time and energy he used in pursuing "alternative" methods could have been spent doing something more useful.
Infomercial scammer commits suicide. Donald Lapre, one of the nation's most persistent infomercial scammers, was found dead in his jail cell two days before his scheduled trial for mail fraud was due to begin. Press reports indicate that he committed suicide by cutting his neck with a razor. Lapre, whose dubious marketing activities have spanned more than 20 years, had been charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with his marketing of "The Greatest Vitamin in the World." In a 2004 infomercial, Lapre claimed that his vitamin product contained "all you need for optimal health" and that independent advertisers (distributors) would get paid $1,000 or "up to $200 a month for life" every time they got 20 people to try it. But the indictment indicated that he greatly exaggerated the program's income potential and ultimately persuaded 226,794 people to invest more than $51.8 million. Quackwatch has a detailed history of Lapre's activities.
Fluoridation in the news. Although water fluoridation is an extremely valuable public health measure, battles over whether to implement it are scattered throughout the United States. Two events are newsworthy:
- In March, Arkansas passed a mandatory fluoridation law (Act 197) that is expected to bring fluoridated water to 640,000 more Arkansans, including 174,000 children. The campaign for the bill was strengthened by a favorable public opinion poll and an offer by Delta Dental of Arkansas to donate $500,000 toward the startup costs for 32 water systems affected by the bill. [Crozier S. Arkansas success:
State passes fluoridation law; coalition credited with victory. ADA News, March 17, 2011]
- This week the Pinellas County Commission voted 4-3 to halt fluoridation to county residents who have been getting it since 2004. About 700,000 people will be affected. [DeCamp D. Pinellas County Commission votes to stop putting fluoride in water supply. St. Petersburg Times, Oct 5, 2011]
New "health freedom" coalition formed. Joseph Mercola, D.O., who operates a high-traffic health disinformation Web site has announced the formation of Health Liberty, a nonprofit coalition whose goals include promoting organic foods and targeting fluoridation, vaccination, genetically modified foods, and the use of amalgam fillings. [Mercola J. New plan to help you take back your health freedoms. Mercola.com, Oct 3, 2011] In a video accompanying the announcement, Mercola stated that he plans to donate $1 million to catalyze the project. The coalition members are:
- Mercola.com, which attract more than 1 million hits a day and published an e-mail newsletter which has over 1.5 million subscribers. Mercola's reach has been greatly boosted by repeated promotion on the "Dr. Oz Show."
- National Vaccine Information Center, which understates the benefits and exaggerates the risks of vaccination
- Fluoride Action Network, a leading promoter of misinformation about fluoridation
- Institute for Responsible Technology, which understates the benefits and exaggerates the risks of genetically modification of foods
- Consumers for Dental Choice, which vigorously attacks amalgam use with misinformation, propaganda, lobbying, and lawsuits
- Organic Consumers Association, which irresponsibly promotes unpasteurized milk and spreads false alarms about food irradiation, agricultural biotechnology, and vaccines.
The "health freedom" argument involves deception by misdirection. It focuses on individual freedom but does not consider how people who fail to protect their health put the rest of society at physical and/or financial risk. Failing to vaccinate, for example, decreases herd immunity so that contagious diseases spread more widely.
This page was revised on October 7, 2011.