Consumer Health Digest #15-35

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 7, 2015


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.


Mercola disciplinary action spotlighted. Joseph Mercola, D.O. recently announced on his Web site that he had stopped seeing patients in order to dedicate his "limited time" to his newsletter, which now has more than 1.5 million subscribers. However, Dr. Stephen Barrett has uncovered documents that suggest otherwise. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation database states that Mercola, D.O. has never been disciplined. But in 2004, the IDFPR filed a formal complaint that challenged about a dozen statements on his Web site. Such complaints are usually followed by an administrative hearing in which the doctor has the opportunity to defend himself. But in this case, Mercola (through his attorneys) moved to dismiss the complaint based on the assertion that the board lacked jurisdiction to discipline him for the "exercise of free speech." After an administrative law judge denied this motion, Mercola petitioned the U.S. District Court, which upheld the board. He then appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals. In January 2007, this appeal was voluntarily dismissed at the request of both parties. By that time, the statements to which IDFPR had objected had been removed from Mercola's Web site, the IDFPR had dismissed its disciplinary action, and, according to a report in Chicago Magazine, Mercola had stopped practicing medicine to focus on his site. Dr. Barrett suspects that the IDFPR decided that no further action was needed because Mercola had modified his Web site and stopped treating patients. [Barrett S. Dr. Joseph Mercola's battle with his state licensing board. Casewatch, Sept 1, 2015] It would be interesting to know whether his decision to stop seeing patients was influenced by fear of what might happen if the board were to look closely at how he managed patients. Mercola.com contains over 100,000 articles, many of which plug products he sells through the site. Mercola is now a major donor to organizations that oppose vaccination, fluoridation, genetically-modified crops, and the use of amalgam fillings in dentistry. In a recent video, Mercola said he was "absolutely confident that we will be successful . . . . in removing fluoride from the water supply in the United States and eventually the world because we're making major progress."


Harvey Bigelsen convicted again. In February 2015, Harvey Bigelsen pleaded no contest to a criminal charge of using the titles "Dr." and "M.D." in his letterheads, business cards, or ads despite the fact that he had no medical license. The plea agreement, which was negotiated with the Nevada County, California) District Attorney's office and approved by the court, calls for Bigelsen to serve probation for two years, during which time he may not use the titles "Dr." or "M.D." in connection with his business except when lecturing, teaching, or being an author. He is also required to pay $6,750 in costs for the government investigations. And when the probation period ends, if Bigelsen stays out of trouble, he may withdraw the plea and the charges will be dropped without any conviction. [Brenner K. Plea deal cancels trial in Bigelsen case. The Union, Feb 14, 2015]

Bigelsen is very antagonistic to standard medical care. He has written that "Medical doctors doing surgeries and prescribing drugs (poisons) are the number one cause of chronic disease today." His 2011 book, Doctors are More Harmful Than Germs, claims that all people with chronic health problems have "trapped inflammation" in their body that can be diagnosed by looking at their platelets under a microscope and relieved by treating scar tissue to remove "blockages." He co-authored the 1981 Arizona law that established what is now called the Arizona State Board of Homeopathic and Integrated Medicine Examiners, which has enabled many offbeat practitioners to escape regulation by other medical boards. Then as the board's first president, he set "standards" that encompass a broad range of dubious practices. In 1994, however, he permanently surrendered his homeopathic medical license as part of a plea bargain that settled charges of insurance fraud. He subsequently reported that from 1994 through 2000, he served as director of biological medicine at the Institute de Medicina Biologica in Tijuana, Mexico and then relocated to California, where he offered seminars and professional services as a "hemobiographic consultant" to other practitioners. His advice was based on examination of blood specimens with a darkfield microscope. From about 2010 through 2014, Bigelsen did business as the Biological Health Institute, which stated on its Web site that he had achieved high success rates through a combination of structural therapies, cranial-sacral adjustments, neural therapy, isopathic remedies, and European cell therapy. In 2014, shortly before his arrest, the California authorities confiscated his microscopes and shut down his clinic. During a recent radio interview, he described plans to offer stem cell treatment and other nonstandard procedures at a clinic in Mexico. He also offers membership in the Bigelsen Academy, which he describes as a "private education and information association" that will enable members to "share information with each other in a private setting." Quackwatch has additional information about him.


Australia disciplines offbeat cancer treatment provider. The Western Australia Administrative Tribunal has reprimanded Dr. William Henry Barnes in connection with his treatment of Penelope Dingle, who died from a potentially treatable rectal cancer in 2005. [GP reprimanded for treating cancer patient with Venus flytrap. NZ Doctor.co, Sept 3, 2015] Barnes was criticized in a coroner's report in 2010 and was fined AUS $25,000 in 2013 for falsely claiming to cure cancer with intravenous vitamin C and Venus flytrap and mistletoe extracts. At that time, he operated a clinic called Resort to Health that offered "nutritional treatments" and claimed to have a "high degree of success across all conditions we treat." The tribunal suspended his practice for three months and banned him from recommending, supplying, or administering these modalities for treating any cancer patient. He is also barred from having any financial interest in any substance connected with treatment of any cancer patient.


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This page was posted on September 7, 2015.