The questionable theory that Candida albicans (aka "yeast") infection is responsible for a chronic hypersensitivity syndrome which includes specific psychological symptoms was tested by randomized, double-blind trial lasting 32-weeks and involving 42 premenopausal women who met preset criteria for the syndrome. The outcomes studied were changes from baseline in scores for vaginal, systemic, and overall symptoms, and the results of standardized psychological tests. Results were that the three active treatment regimens, and the placebos significantly reduced both vaginal and systemic symptoms, but nystatin did not reduce the systemic systems more than placebo. The results do not support the proposition advanced by Truss and Crook that nystatin is an effective treatment against systemic or psychological symptoms alleged to be due to yeast infection (New Engl J Med, 323:1717-23, 1990).
A Las Vegas mail-order firm that sells certificates indicating that the person inscribed thereon is a "certified nutritionist" denied that its standards were so poor today that dogs, cats, hamsters and other such pets could be enrolled. Myra Zelikovics, executive director of the American Association of National Nutritional Consultants stated that such failings were a thing of the past when the previous management was lax in checking membership applications. However, Barbara Paulsen, RD, enrolled her pet in March, 1991 (Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 20, 1991, p.1B).
A Georgia man, who suffers partial impairment following chiropractic neck manipulation (CNM), has formed an organization for people who have been injured by CNM. His hope is to have legislation passed in every state which would require that patients be provided with specified benefit-risk information about CNM before treatment is initiated. A friendly legislator in his state who also was injured by CNM is willing to introduce the legislation there, but the man wishes to extend this consumer protection to other states as well. The group also plans to publish warnings in newspapers about the potential dangers of CNM and the unlikelihood that consumers will be warned of possible adverse effects by their DC. Coincidently, a recent article in The National Inquirer about the dangers of CNM has brought a number of inquiries to NCAHF by victims and the attorneys of victims. These are being referred. If readers know of any victims of chiropractic, whether it be due to CNM or other questionable DC treatments, please notify NCAHF and we will put them in touch with the Victims of Chiropractic group.
Linda Jean Solsbury, 41, a former pediatric nurse, suffered a stroke on October 25, 1985, after receiving chiropractic neck manipulation by a Waterford, Connecticut DC, Thomas B. Goulding. Ms. Solisbury, who is now a quadriplegic was awarded $10 million in damages in New London, Connecticut in April, 1991.
James Gordon Keller, 57, was arrested at the U.S. border on March 18. Keller, whose escapades were detailed in "The sad allure of cancer quackery," FDA Consumer, 5/85, once operated the Universal Health Center at Matamoros, Mexico, where he employed crystals, herbal teas, vitamins, massages, and a nostrum called Tumorex which he claimed would "drive cancer from the body." In 1984, a grand jury in Brownsville, Texas, returned a 13-count indictment for conspiracy to defraud cancer patients. To avoid prosecution Keller fled to Tijuana where he has been operating St. Jude's Clinic. Keller was captured after reporting a $200,000 theft from his safe in Mexico to the police. Word of the theft was passed along to San Diego Police who recognized him as a fugitive. Keller is being held without bail and faces up to 63 years in prison and $22,000 in fines. (Arizona Daily Star, 3/27/91)
Comment: Keller's operation was described in the Sept-Oct, 1984, NCAHF Newsletter. Keller peddled a wonder-cure he dubbed "Tumorex" which was nothing more than the common amino acid L-arginine. He also used an electronic device to "diagnose" cancer (which he promptly cured) in some people accompanying cancer patients. Keller had been observed carrying a pistol as he worked in his early years at St. Judes.
Consumer's Union presents the important facts of the dental amalgam controversy in the May, 1991 Consumer Reports. CU's depiction of a thermometer which expresses micrograms of mercury per gram of creatine excreted in the urine put the matter into perspective in understandable terms. The upper limit of urinary mercury attributed to extensive dental fillings is less than one-sixth of the range in which no known health effects occur. Reprints of the excellent 4-page article are available from CU at 101 Truman Ave., Yonkers, NY 10703-1057.
NOTE: The National Institutes of Dental Research and the Office of Medical Applications of Research (NIH) are planning a Technology Assessment Conference on Effects and Side Effects of Dental Restorative Materials on August 28, 1991 at NIH in Bethesda, MD.
A study comparing sham acupuncture with needle insertion at alleged acupuncture points found that both produced a small (9-10%), significant, improvement in exercise tolerance no matter where needles were placed. Both groups showed a 50% improvement with nitroglycerin consumption. The researchers are unable to conclude whether the small effect seen was a placebo or due to noxious stimulation of the dermatome of the heart. They suggest a way to separate these effects in another study. (J Internal Med, 227:25-30, 1990)
A New York City jury awarded $900,000 in a wrongful death case to the administratrix of the estate of Glen Gersten who committed suicide after years of treatment by clinical ecologist Warren Levin, MD. The award included $411,000 in punitive damages. Levin had told Gersten, who had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, that drugs would aggravate his condition or kill him. He had the man remove his furniture, seal his apartment with tape, and turn off his tap water in order to avoid toxins and pollutants. Gersten lived an isolated existence in New Jersey for four years before killing himself. (New York Law Journal, May 5, 1991)
Comment: This sad outcome is an example of the harm that comes from the misdiagnosis and improper treatment of psychiatric problems as discussed by Stewart in her excellent article "Emotional disorders misdiagnosed as physical illness..." Int J Ment Health, 19:56-68, 1990.
Simon, et al (Am J Psychiatry 147:901-6, 1990) report a high level of anxiety or depressive disorder among patients who allegedly suffer from "environmental illness," thus lending support to Stewart's proposition that such patients often are misdiagnosed.
An 8-year-old Highland, Utah boy, Yuri Owens, has died of a rare form of bone cancer. Mayo Clinic doctors recommended amputation and chemotherapy earlier this year saying that these treatments would extend Yuri's life by several years. Instead of following the Mayo doctors' advice, the parents turned to Dr. Lawrence Taylor of San Diego who treated the boy with diet and homeopathic medicines. Before Yuri's death his father, Jerry Taylor, is quoted as saying that Yuri improved under Taylor's care and that he was getting better.
A scarcity of medications is driving Soviet citizens to herbal remedies, banki (empty jars are heated and used to create suction on the chest), homeopathy and psychic healing according to New York Times writer Frances X. Clines. A booming popular attraction is a television psychic healer named Anatoly Kashpirovsky, who is said to be spawning imitators across the country. Antibiotics are available only at black market prices or through elaborate personal connections. Government drugstores are said to resemble vacant stage sets. President Gorbachev has used the word "paralysis" to described the Soviet pharmaceutical industry, says Cline. (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/1/91)
Comment: The Soviet Union, like most old world cultures, has a rich history of folk medicine which includes herbalism and magical healing rituals. It also has a rich history of quackery. We previously reported (CCAHF Newsletter, 5:(2):1, 1982 citing BMJ, 282:1945-6, 1981) on a crude Russian quack who earned up to four times the average monthly wage of Soviet workers daily! The free-enterprising quack was said to be tolerated because he posed "no threat to political orthodoxy."
An extensive review of various physical therapies (exercise, electro-therapeutics, hydrotherapy, heat & cold applications, traction & manipulation, splints) for relieving pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients cautions "against any spinal manipulation treatments such as those provided by chiropractors." (J Musculoskeletal Med, June, 1990)
Richard Behar skewers the church of Scientology in the May 6, 1991, issue of Time. The article is probably one of the most important and courageous pieces of journalism ever done. Scientology is described as "a ruthless global scam--and aiming for the mainstream." NCAHF President William Jarvis, to whom a minor quote was attributed in the article, was visited on the day the magazine came out by a private investigator who identified himself as having been retained by a law firm that represented the Scientology organization. Jarvis was asked how Mr. Behar had approached him for the interview. Jarvis responded that all conversations and unpublished statements between himself and a writer were private and privileged, and that he would make no comment. The man said that he understood and left. This minor encounter was representative of Scientology's history of intimidation and coercion numerous writers have reported over the years. Behar reports that he was harassed and set upon by private investigators while writing the piece.
NCAHF leaders believe that misinformation and misbeliefs surrounding organic farming and foods is one of the most important factors driving health fraud and quackery currently. Health educators and others interested in these problems must be informed on the basics of these topics. The Institute of Food Technologists Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition released its summary report on the scientific status of organically grown foods in December, 1990. NCAHF has obtained copies and will help disseminate this critical information.
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) has been called the "sleeping prophet" by his promoters. Cayce used to take people's problems to bed with him and divine the solutions in dreams and trances. All this sounds pretty silly to most people, but there is a following of zealots who really believe that Cayce was some kind of psychic healer! Jack Raso describes the Cayce phenomenon, past and present, in "The legacies of Edgar Cayce," (Nutrition Forum, 8:1-4, 1991). The Cayce cult does business in the name of the Association for Research and Enlightenment located at Virginia Beach, VA.
The health food industry worked hard to pass legislation that would establish a Federal agency that would assemble and mix nutrition misinformation with sound information in a way that would make the former indistinguishable. The ability to cite a Federal agency as a resource will give credence to the fallacies upon which the health foods business is dependent. Such legislation was incorporated into the 1990 Farm Bill, H.R. 3950. Public health and nutrition professionals must do what they can to neutralize this apparent gain made by the anti-scientific health foods promoters. It is clear that nutrition science is rapidly losing ground as lawmakers work to please organic food growers and health food purveyors. All of this conjures up the specter referred to by Victor Herbert in his 1981 presidential address to the American Society for Clinical Nutrition prophetically entitled "Will questionable nutrition overwhelm nutrition science?" (Am J Clin Nutr, 34:2848-53, 1981). The details were different then, but the basic issues have not changed.
A study by the National Toxicology Program that reported an increased incidence of bone cancer in rats caused a national furor one-year ago. At that time, NCAHF pointed out that there has been sufficient human exposure to assess any such risk epidemiologically. This has now been done. Trends in the incidence of primary bone cancers were examined among the residents of New York State under 30 years of age between 1955 and 1987. The researchers concluded that the data did not support an association between fluoride in the drinking water and the occurrence of bone cancer. (Am J Public Health, 81:475-479, (April) 1991)
Chelation literally means "claw" or "to grasp." A chelated mineral is wrapped in protein which promoters claim help them to be absorbed by the body more efficiently. This is a discredited idea, because the digestive processes merely strip off the protein leaving the minerals to be absorbed in the same old way, but a new multilevel company, NuSkin, is peddling chelated minerals as its "better mousetrap" approach. Chelated minerals is not the only health nonsense promoted by NuSkin--bee pollen and L-carnitine also make the list. Most of the company's products appear to be overpriced, over glorified vitamin & chelated mineral formulas that will only add to a family's nutrition costs and enrich a few yuppies. The company also cosmetic product line.
The American Council on Science & Health has compiled 47 key nutrition-related articles it published from 1981 to 1990 in Issues In Nutrition edited by Agnes Heinz, PhD. The 156-page, 8 1/2" X 11" book is available from ACSH, 1995 Broadway - 16th Floor, New York, NY 10023-5860.
Cassileth, et al compared the length of survival and quality of life of 78-matched pairs of selected patients treated at the Livingston-Wheeler Medical Clinic (LWMC) at San Diego and the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center. Patients selected for the study were those with extensive, untreatable diseases having median estimated survival times of one-year or less. The researchers hypothesized (1) that there would be no difference in survival time between the two groups: but, (2) that those treated at the LWMC would experience better quality of life as measured by the 22-item, self-report scale Functional Living Index-Cancer (FLI) due to self-care components of the LWMC program and the absence of side-effects due to chemotherapy. Findings: (1) there was no difference in survival time, as expected; (2) opposite of what was expected, the LWMC patients had a significantly (P = 0.002) lower quality of life at all times (New Engl J Med, 324:1180-5, 1991).
Comment: Unfortunately, the above study has been badly reported by some media sources as mainly showing that standard therapies offered no advantage over "unorthodox" remedies. In fact, no difference in survival time was expected in these two groups. Granted, the LWMC has a history of claiming to be able to benefit terminal patients, but the researchers were under no such illusions. This was really a test of the notion that people undergoing "unorthodox" therapy gain something from the false hope engendered by participating in self-care and avoiding the side-effects of toxic chemotherapy. Of course, the key to interpreting this report lies in the validity of the gauge used to measure "quality of life." The FLI measures perceived physical well-being, psychological state, sociability, effect upon family members, and nausea.
The activities of an unidentified Nebraska pharmacist are described in the "You be the Judge" legal column of Drug Store News/Inside Pharmacy (6/18/90). The man adopted the title of "doctor" allowing people to believe that he was a physician, established a "clinic" at which he diagnosed people's aliments, and treated patients employing naturopathic and homeopathic remedies. After being arrested and found guilty of illegally practicing medicine, he ignored a court injunction and continued his activities. Found guilty of violating the court's injunction he was fined $500 and sentenced to 60-days in jail. His case has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska. Some of the medical advice offered by the pseudodoctor included giving arnica to a child who had been run over by a car and was experiencing seizures as a result. He also recommended that silica be placed on scars the child had received from the accident. For another patient's pinworms he suggested carrots, pumpkin seed and gentian as remedies.
Comment: It is interesting to compare the $500 fine paid by the charlatan described above with the amount a legitimate physician must pay for malpractice insurance. We wonder if he actually served any of the 60 days in jail. A California study of 20 years of law enforcement for quackery found that few such quacks serve any time. This case is another testament to weak law enforcement in the very dangerous area of practicing medicine without a license--a crime compounded by the fact that he was practicing pseudomedicine at that. (No, Virginia, I don't think he can get off by claiming that naturopathy and homeopathy aren't really medicine. The fact that he either diagnosed, prescribed or treated are what determined his guilt.)
Jacques Benveniste, who nearly ruined his career by touting dubious research purporting to verify the homeopathic notion that a substance so dilute that it no longer contains any molecules of the therapeutic agent can still be effective due to a vitalistic imprint (ie, a molecular ghost or memory), now claims to have fixed his sloppy methodology problem and rediscovered the phenomenon in histamine depleted solutions. He plans to unveil the discovery later this year. (New Scientist, 3/16/91, p.10).
Comment: Benveniste's credibility was greatly impaired when it was found that his work was backed by a major homeopathic manufacturer. It is not clear now whether he is trying to fight his way out of an ego-trap or keep alive the notion that homeopathy might have some scientific basis.
Writing in the Townsend Letter for Doctors (Dec. 1990) NCAHF board member Grace Powers Monaco, JD, explains how insurance companies judge the validity of a remedy to determine its eligibility for payment. The criteria are inextricably tied to the way in which medical procedures are validated. Her article "Legal perspective of experimental medicine in private practice" is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in how insurance companies, the law and science interact to protect consumers and the public purse. Monaco cites the precedent setting cases and explains how proponents of a new idea that has merit can work toward its approval. This effort reflects a willingness to build bridges for people who unwittingly advance unproven methods out of an ignorance of just how to go about moving a pet idea forward toward acceptance.
A field of scientific inquiry with a great deal of quackery-related spin-off involves the possible effects of a person's mental state and episodes of illness. For those wanting to keep up with the basic science in this field we recommend a careful review of the research data, and their associated methodological and conceptual problems, presented by Stein, et al in "Depression, the immune system, and health and disease," Archives of General Psychiatry (48:171-177, 1991). This is not light reading, but provides a good assessment of the status of the research to date.
"Doublespeak is language that pretends to communicate but does not, that makes the bad seem good, the repulsive appear attractive or at least tolerable. It is language that avoids, shifts, or denies responsibility, language at variance with its real or purported meaning. Basic to doublespeak is incongruity; the incongruity between what is said, or left unsaid, and what is; between the word and the referent. It perverts the essential function of language, which is communication, in order to mislead, distort, deceive, circumvent. Doublespeak is the deliberate use of language as a weapon or tool... to achieve their ends at the expense of others." (William Lutz, editor, Quarterly Journal of Doublespeak, in Editor's Workshop, February, 1991, p.7). Lutz describes the use of doublespeak by politicians, but the application to quackery is inescapable. Quackery's doublespeak includes "alternative therapies," "holistic health," "natural," "organic," "non-toxic," "health foods" "herbal," "health freedom," and other bogus terms designed to obscure the inadequate labeling, lack of proof of safety and effectiveness, omission of adverse facts about the practices, products, or services; and attempts by promoters to escape accountability.
So-called "natural" or "pyramid" eyeglasses do not rely upon lenses, but consist of a opaque material with multiple slits or perforations. Their effects are easily explained by well known scientific principles. The light entering the small hole(s) is restricted to light rays coming straight off the viewed object; these light rays do not require focusing to bring them to a point. This is the same effect seen in a "pin hole" camera experiment which is often demonstrated in a science class. Such eyeglasses are misrepresented as being better for the eyes than conventional lenses. Promoters claim that conventional lenses will make the eyes lazy and the pinhole glasses will not. This is not true. Pinhole eyeglasses reduce the focus effort needed to read just as do conventional lenses, therefore, the effect will be the same. In addition, pinhole eyeglasses restrict contrast, brightness, and the field of view of the image which makes them less effective than simple reading glasses.
Patrons of questionable cancer care expose themselves to incompetent practitioners, unsanitary clinical conditions, improper clinical management that may interfere with drugs they are taking, and more. Laetrile treatment exposes patients to cyanide poisoning (New Engl J Med, 306:201-6, 1982). Infectious viruses have been found in biological products used in IAT (MMWR, 34:489-91, 1985). The 1984 Pepper report cites a clinic employing whole body hyperthermia that was responsible for causing brain damage and death to patients (p. 150). Excessive coffee enemas have killed patients (JAMA, 244:1608-9, 1980). These events explode the so-called "gambler's fallacy" that there is nothing to lose by trying dubious cancer remedies. Now the fallacy is further verified by the study by Cassileth, et al., reported in this issue. Although the Livingston program poses only small risk of direct harm, the patients still lost by suffering a lower quality of life.
Parents warn little children not to go away with strangers. Don't accept candy or go with people who ask you to help them find their lost puppies or kitties; don't fall for the story that your mother has been hurt and the stranger is there to take you to her--or any other story: don't be tricked by the fact that the stranger knows your name. Don't go away with strangers under any circumstances! Now add to the list warnings to children--after they've become college students: don't go away with strangers who ask you to "save the environment and help the poor." These worthy projects are being used by recruiters to enlist young people in cults which may be destructive to their mental well-being. Arthur Dole says that his social activist daughter was deceived into visiting the Creative Community Project with this line (The Cult Observer, 8:(3):10, 1991).
Organized quackery has also picked up on the "greening" of America - - just as it did on the wellness movement. Obviously there's nothing wrong with the ideas of "greening" and "wellness," but as the old book says: "beware of wolves in sheep's clothing--you will know them by the fruits they bear." A few of the bad fruits of organized quackery are apparent in efforts to destroy consumer protection law (aka, "health freedom"), anti-public health actions (eg, anti-fluoridation, anti-immunization, anti-pasteurization), attacks against scientific agriculture and food technology, and attempts to formalize nutrition misinformation through practitioners (Certified Nutritionists), accredited education (home study coursework) and a national nutrition information clearinghouse that will ignore science.
Does anyone really believe that the way to improve the human condition is through less science and less consumer protection? We doubt it. Even the phonies feign safety and effectiveness by their specious labeling (eg, "organic," "natural" and "health foods"; herbal concoctions; "alternative" and "holistic" health care, etc.), and testimonials declaring that "it works!" Quacks merely pretend that they have found a way to achieve the goals of wellness and less pollution that all of us seek.
Unfortunately, those who endanger children often turn out to be friends, relatives or neighbors. Studies have shown that word of mouth by friends, relatives and neighbors is the main way that quackery reaches people. How does one warn children about non-strangers? By telling them why!
The WRF is an information and referral resource that espouses a line familiar to quack fighters. Operated by Steven and LaVerne Ross, WRF's stated purpose is to inform people about all available treatments (read: including quackery). They say they believe in "freedom to choose" and that they are not attached to any particular medical philosophy. The Rosses apparently are either ignorant of or choose to ignore two of the most fundamental realities of the health marketplace.
First, consumers are already free to choose. They may refuse medical care, engage in self-care, choose nonscientific health care (eg, acupuncture, ayurvedic, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy), even seek out blatant quackery without fear of the law since patronizing quacks is not illegal. The only record we have of the victims of quackery being prosecuted was in Nuremberg at some unspecified time (Mathison. The Eternal Search, London: F. Muller, 1959, p.204). It is true that such freedom does not extend to the point that permits the substitution of quackery for effective medical care for dependent children. The freedom WRF appears to advocate is a freedom from accountability for the purveyors of quackery.
Second, the split between quackery and responsible health is no longer based upon competition among "medical philosophies." That went out with the development of science and consumer protection law encoded into the U.S. Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. Medical doctors, osteopathy, dentistry, nursing, podiatry, optometry, and many other health care providers have embraced the concept of scientific medicine. It is common practice among novices to wrongly refer to "allopathic" medicine as if the term still meant "treating symptoms with opposites" (ie. the balancing of four humors by bleeding, purging, puking, etc. as taught by Hippocrates) instead of "a system of medical practice making use of all measures proved of value in the treatment of disease" (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary).
Operating with minds "so open that their brains fall out," WRF's wrinkle appears to be not to merely supply information on contemporary quackery, but to revive quackery of yesteryear. In a (March, 1991) article in East West magazine the Rosses extol such nonsense as the Spectro-Chrome, a device that merely placed colored glass in front of an ordinary 1000 watt light bulb alleging that it had therapeutic value. WRF also sponsors conferences which bring together promoters of "alternative" medicine, and publishes a newsletter, World Research News. WRF is located at 15300 Ventura Blvd, Suite 405, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403; 818/907-5483.