Consumer Health Digest #15-42
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 25, 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.
ACS modifies cancer screening guidelines. The American Cancer Society has modified its recommendations for breast cancer screening. [Oeffinger KC and others. Breast cancer screening for women at average risk: 2015 guideline update from the American Cancer Society. JAMA 314:1599-1614, 2015] The recommendations are intended to balance the potential benefit of early detection of progressive cancers against the risks of (a) unnecessary treatment of tumors that will not progress and (b) unnecessary biopsy and emotional stress when mammography raises suspicions that are not confirmed by further testing. For women of average risk, the new ACS guidelines include:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- Because research does not show a clear benefit of periodic manual breast exams (palpation) done by either a health professional or by the woman, these are no longer recommended. However, all women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report changes to their doctor.
Raising the starting age for mammography from 40 to 45 brings the ACS recommendations closer to the pending U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines, which would begin the screening process at age 50. The recommendation against routine manual breast exams also represents a major change. A JAMA editorial provides additional perspective about the reasons for these differences.
British regulators restrict live blood analysis claims. The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which provide the UK Advertising Codes administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, has issued a guidance statement on live blood analysis. The document states that advertisers of should not:
- Make claims that live blood analysis can detect current or future health risks
- Make claims for treatment of conditions or diseases detected with the test
- Make any reference to the diagnosis or treatment of cancer
- Use the title "Dr" unless you hold a general medical qualification
- Discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought
Live blood analysis is carried out by placing a drop of blood from the patient's fingertip on a microscope slide under a glass cover slip to keep it from drying out. The slide is then viewed at high magnification with a dark-field microscope that forwards the image to a television monitor. Both practitioner and patient can then see the blood cells, which appear as dark bodies outlined in white. The results are then used as a basis for prescribing supplements. The procedure is also called live cell analysis, dark-field video analysis, nutritional blood analysis, vital hematology, biocytonics, and several other names. Dark-field microscopy is a valid scientific tool in which special lighting is used to examine specimens of cells and tissues. However, its use as a basis for prescribing products is not legitimate. [Barrett S. Live cell analysis: Another gimmick to sell you something. Quackwatch, Oct 25, 2015] The CAP guidance document basically says that the only permissible advertising claim is availability.
Oregon AG suing GNC. The Oregon Attorney General is suing General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) for selling dietary supplements that contain picamilon and BMPEA. Picamilon is a synthetic chemical that is not approved in the United States, but is used as a prescription drug in some countries to treat neurological conditions. BMPEA is a powerful stimulant and amphetamine-like substance that is sometimes sold as a weight-loss or performance-enhancing supplement. The complaint alleges that GNC violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA) by misrepresenting the products as lawful when they are not legal to sell as dietary supplements in the United States. The complaint also charged that some products labeled as containing botanical acacia rigidula had been spiked with unlabeled BMPEA. In a response to the suit, GNC is claiming that (a) consistent with "retail standard practice," it "appropriately" relied on the guarantees of suppliers that their products are lawful, and (b) there is no basis for the Oregon Attorney General's assertion that GNC or any other retailer knew or should have known that picamilon and BMPEA were illegal for use in dietary supplements.
This page was revised on October 26, 2015.