Vegetarian Times has paid NCAHF and four of its board members a total of $20,000 to settle claims against the magazine of having published lies and defamed the characters of Stephen Barrett, Victor Herbert, William Jarvis, John Renner and misrepresented NCAHF's mission and support. The defamation occurred in an article entitled "The health fraud cops" by Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin (August, 1991). In addition to the financial settlement, the magazine will publish a correction article written by Dr. Barrett in its March, 1992 issue. Several publications sympathetic to quackery have spread the lies farther by quoting or summarizing the VT article.
The New York Daily News profiled New York's 26 worst, dangerous but still practicing physicians in a headlined story entitled "Docs from Hell" (11/27/91). Of the 26, NCAHF only was aware of Warren Levin, MD. Levin, a "clinical ecologist" in Brooklyn, was recently held liable in the wrongful death of a 29-yr-old paranoid schizophrenic male patient who jumped to his death. The court awarded $489,000 for wrongful death and $411,000 in punitive damages. The case is described in The New York Jury Verdict Reporter (12/16/91). The report details Levin's bizarre, inappropriate treatment (ie, a rotational diet of only 4 foods, ingestion of vitamins, food extracts and neutralizers which took 3-3.5 hrs each day) and psychological manipulation as the man was told that medical therapy would kill him. Curiously, the award was not based upon the defendant's unconventional treatment, but for Levin's "malicious, wanton, and reckless act" of failing to see the patient who waited several hours in his waiting room despite having had ample time to do so. (Note: among the lies in the above mentioned VT article were statements regarding Dr. Victor Herbert's testimony against Levin.)
Quackery By Mail, a special report published for the American Council on Science & Health (author: Stephen Barrett, MD) is available for $3.85 postpaid from ACSH, 1995 Broadway, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10023-5860.
In July, 1991, the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners adopted a resolution condemning as unprofessional conduct the use of intravenous EDTA (chelation) therapy for other than heavy metal detoxification.
Montana has become the 9th state to legalize naturopathy (2 states do not accept new licenses). The new practice act permits NDs to use diet, nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine and counseling. Legislators responded despite its commitment to questionable practices such as homeopathy and a variety of unproved therapies. The Montana Medical Assoc. and the AMA opposed the bill. Efforts continue in other states to legalize naturopathy.
The questionable cancer clinics located in Tijuana and other Mexico locations are profiled in the American Cancer Society's Ca-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Sept-Oct, 1991. Included are American Biologics, Bio Medical Center (Hoxsey) Clinica Cydel (Manner therapy), Hospital Ernesto Contreras, Hospital Santa Monica (Donsbach) and St. Jude (Keller).
Three Oregon naturopaths report on their follow-up of 22 patients treated at the Contreras clinic in Tijuana in 1983-4. They say that all of the 22 died of their cancers within a two-year period, and no patient appeared to substantially outlive expected norms. They report "no cures and an apparent lack of any clinical efficacy . . . using an approach not dissimilar from the protocol utilized by the mayo Clinic." As naturopaths, they say that they had hoped for better and feel that they cannot be charged with an anti-Laetrile bias. The three were still not willing to close the door on Laetrile because the patients had been treated with "immunosuppressive" conventional therapies. (Townsend Letter, 12/91).
An Arizona woman reports that as a follower of holistic medicine she took L tryptophan for 3-4 years. When the ban came she disbelieved and "was angry with FDA." In the spring of 1991, she bought L-tryptophan illegally in an Alabama health food store. In early May she developed EMS symptoms and was diagnosed with the condition at Mayo Clinic in August. Her fear of prescription drugs which apparently led her to holistic medicine has now expanded to "everything I eat, drink or still have in tablet form." (Townsend Letter, 12/91).
An FTC Administrative Law Judge has ruled that the Schering Corporation's ads claiming that Fibre Trim was a high-fibre supplement were knowingly false and unsubstantiated. The product was manufactured by a Danish company, Farma Food A/S. (FTC News Notes, 9/30/91)
"Rolling labs," a label given medical laboratories which solicit consumers for large batteries of tests which are not put to any meaningful use but for which insurance carriers are billed still are a widespread form of health fraud. In some instances, insurance carriers are billed for tests that weren't even performed. This type of fraud is capable of milking enormous amounts of money from insurance companies and has a measurable effect upon health costs. Such schemes can be tough to spot because the labs appear to be engaged in legitimate preventive medicine as they ostensibly test for early disease.
Melaleuca oil is derived from the leaves of the Australian tea tree. It has a rich folkloric history as a treatment for skin ailments, cuts and burns. It appears to have mild antimicrobial activity and is relatively non-toxic (although topical and vaginal irritation has been reported). Although the substance has some limited value, it is not as safe or effective as other compounds available in the marketplace (Lawrence Review of Natural Products, 1/91). We report on it because it is being multilevel marketed and many have inquired about it. Buyer beware!
An article in the May, 1991, FDA Consumer, "Herbal teas and toxicity," reveals FDA's awareness, concern and enforcement problems. Many herbal products are potentially dangerous, and present real problems, but FDA says that the herbal industry is the least organized of the food industries which makes it difficult to regulate. The article is worth reading for perspective on this contemporary consumer health problem.
A Canadian lawyer who defrauded the government of $900,000 claims that he suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and that's what made him do it. With the help of a medical expert Brian Robertson was able to have his sentence reduced from the usual 5-7 years, to a 2-year suspended sentence. The medical expert was Dr. Byron Hyde, a general practitioner. Hyde claims that there are 10,000 cases of CFS in Alberta alone. Keith Pearse, professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta expresses skepticism about Dr. Hyde's theory of a viral CFS, and says that he hasn't seen a single case of CFS in 30 years of practice. A professor of criminal law shares Dr. Pearce's view. He believes that being tired is not a defense for crime. (Alberta Report, 12/2/91)
A 12/6/91 announcement that NCI will conduct clinical trials of Antineoplastons by the Burzynski Research Institute (BRI) of Houston, Texas, should be viewed with utmost caution. The announcement appears to be a marketing ploy. It's unusual for such publicity to attend the decision to conduct a Phase II trial. The only reasonable explanation is that BRI will use this to continue promoting its unproved therapy. BRI did a similar thing in 1989 when it announced that FDA had granted an IND for Anti-neoplaston A10, and that the substance would be tested in Italy. No tests have been reported to date. The current NCI decision is based upon a best case series (N=6) in which one patient (who very likely had had radiation therapy) showed remission. The review may justify Phase II trials, but it does not justify promoting Antineoplastons to the public.
A review of the literature has led the Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance or the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council to state: "on the basis of the committee's review of the available research literature, we conclude that there is neither theoretical foundation nor experimental evidence to support claims that subliminal self-help audiotapes enhance human performance." (In the Mind's Eye: Enhancing Human Performance, National Academy Press, 1991)
Thermography, a method which maps body surface temperature, is used in diagnosis and treatment evaluation. It is visually impressive but continues to fail tests of validity. A meta-analysis which reviewed 28 studies of the accuracy of the method for diagnosing lumbar radiculopathy (disease of the nerve roots), an infrequent cause of back pain, concluded that thermography can't be recommended at this time. (Spine 16:623-8, 1991)
Comment: Thermography is widely abused. NCAHF will help locate experts who can challenge the method in court.
An FTC flyer Buying A Home Water Treatment Unit is available from the agency (free) or NCAHF ($1 + SSAE).
An excellent article, "Exploiting people with AIDS," in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (12/18/91) presents a synoptic picture of the promotion of dubious AIDS treatments by the TM cult under the name of Maharishi Ayur-Veda. The one-page feature is suitable as a handout.
The U.S. District Court (Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick Division) ruled on 9/5/91 that chelation therapy is nonstandard care for coronary or other atherosclerosis. The case, Moore v. Baker (CV 491-93), involved a physician's alleged failure to inform a patient about alternative therapies which mainstream medicine rejects as quackery or dangerous.
A 57-page Report of the Advisory Committee on Amino Acids (December, 1989) published by Health & Welfare Canada in August, 1990 is available from NCAHF for $10 postage paid. The report covers various amino acids now being seen as food additives and supplements. Order from the Loma Linda office. NCAHF members also receive the NCAHF Bulletin Board which aids and encourages activism.
A flyer bannered with the name of the Swedish Medical Center of Englewood, Colo., advertises a seminar on Therapeutic Touch (TT) on 4 successive Mondays in September, 1991, under "Nursing Research & Education." The Colorado Nurses Association (CNA) allowed 12 contact hours of continuing education for the seminar. CNA is accredited as an approver of CE by the American Nurse Association (ANA), so the seminars automatically assume ANA accreditation. TT is an off-shoot of Transcendental Meditation (TM). As such it is a cousin of ayurvedic medicine. TT involves laying-on-of-hands by a healer who is under a self-induced meditative trance. Any response on the part of the healee is interpreted as a transference of energy (ie, the Hindu life force "prana") from the healer. Proponents seem unaware of the facts that (1) no energy force has ever been shown to exist; and, (2) the knowledge that laying-on-of-hands has the effect of relaxing the recipient and increasing suggestibility making them more placebo responsive.
Wide-eyed RN's who do TT should be an embarrassment to the profession, but the fact that continuing education credit is given to learn this near-witchcraft is evidence that it is not. It also is an indication of the lack of science within the profession. Compassionate RN's may offer care and comfort by laying-on-of-hands, but interpreting the patient responses in terms of TT-TM cosmology is irresponsible balderdash. Worse yet, the flyer states that in the beginning of October a "Department of Energy" branch will be launched through Employee Health and Fitness. (Could the high altitude be affecting these peoples' brains?)
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has published a pamphlet for clinicians on the diagnosis and management of chronic fatigue syndrome. Copies can be obtained from the NIAID Office of Communications, Bldg 31, Room 7A32, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.
Administrative Law Judge M. Gayle Askern canceled North Hollywood, Calif., Physician Valentine Birds' license after an investigation by the state licensing board found that he ordered catheters surgically implanted in 7 AIDS sufferers so the could inject themselves with an untested substance, Viroxan, that was formulated in a kitchen sink. Four of the patients died. Although no direct link to Viroxan could be proved, at least two of the deaths were probably hastened by the treatment, officials said. Viroxan was developed by an Orange County radiologist, Stephen Herman, who voluntarily surrendered his license to avoid prosecution. Birds' lawyer says that Herman hoodwinked Birds into believing that the FDA had approved Viroxan. (Los Angeles Times, 12/11/91).
U.S. District Court Judge Leonard D. Wexler denied a Southampton couple's request to have their 4-yr-old son enrolled in preschool without being vaccinated. Chiropractor Jeffrey Zaloga and his wife Rebecca stated that they regarded "injecting germs into the body as 'sinful'," and wished to be excused on religious grounds. The judge was not persuaded that the couple's beliefs amounted to a religion that would exempt their child from mandatory immunization. The couple had joined a Poughkeepsie-based anti-medicine group called New Life Religion just 3-days before the hearing. Zaloga claims that one of his relatives contracted polio from a vaccination. (Newsday, Garden City, Long Island, NY, undated c.1991).
The health foods industry is running scared because of consumer protection requirements of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA). Health foods industry concerns are laid out in the lead article in Natural Food Merchandiser (Jan., 1992). An industry attorney refers to four new federal regulations that reinforce required truth in labeling as "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" for the health food, herbal and dietary supplement industries. Worrying them are that:
The health food industry is rallying its forces for an all-out write-in campaign to congress to undo the advancements intended by the NLEA. Recalling their success with the 1976 Proxmire Amendment, industry leaders hope to scare election-minded legislators into doing the dastardly thing--stand up for the well-heeled special interest groups rather than for public health and consumer protection. The Proxmire Bill was passed in 1976 despite being opposed by consumer groups, public health, and professional associations. The reason was then that seasoned Senator William Proxmire championed the bill and slipped it through by attaching it to defense appropriations bill. Other legislators went along because of the fact they had received more mail on the bill than had been received on Watergate.
The fact is that the health food, herbal and supplement industry represent hundreds of thousands of salespeople, and true-believing followers, all of whom are potential writers and signers of form letters (often more than once). There are at least 7,900 health foods stores, over a hundred thousand multilevel marketing herbal and supplement sales company distributors, 50,000 health care practitioners (eg, chiropractors, nutrition consultants, naturopaths, orthomolecular practitioners, etc.) for whom such products represent a major source of income, and their deceived and deluded followers who will clamor for nonregulation. In reality, consumers who choose to believe these deviant providers will be unaffected by such regulatory actions because they disbelieve the spokespersons of nutrition science and government regulatory agencies in preference to the sellers of nutritional magic anyhow. NLEA will only protect the unsuspecting public who are now influenced by unregulated false claims.
Hopefully, Congress and the FDA will stand up for improved consumer protection and not be swayed by the health food industry's write-in campaign. The industry is also worried that two pieces of additional legislation which died at the end of the 1991 session will be revived. They are: (1) HR3642, The Food, Drug, Cosmetic and Device Enforcement Amendment which would allow FDA to subpoena and inspect manufacturer's records, and levy corporate fines up to $1 million; and, (2) HR 1662, The Nutrition Advertising Coordination Act which would make the FTC's advertising regulations coincide with the proposed NLEA rules. These proposals represent common sense and responsible action because they provide the FDA with the power it needs to effectively regulate and bring consistency to the regulatory process.
Targeted for correspondence are Senators: Patrick Leahy D-VT, Howard Metzenbaum D-OH, Brock Adams D-WA, Paul Wellstone D-MN, Nancy Kasselbaum R-KS, Strom Thurmond R-SC, Ed Kennedy D-MA, Christopher Dodd D-CT, Barbara Mikulski D-MD, Tom Harkin D-IA, James Jeffords R-VT, Dave Durenburger R-MN, Claibourne Pell D-RI, Paul Simon D-IL, Jeff Bingaman D-NM, Orrin Hatch R-UT, Dan Coats R-IN, Thad Cochran R-MS at US Senate, Washington, DC 20510; and, Representatives: John Dingell D-MI, Peter Defazio D-OR, Henry Waxman D-CA, Ron Wyden D-OR, Joe Moakley D-MA at US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. NCAHF urges readers to make themselves heard on these important issues.
NCAHF is not aware of a single contribution to public health or nutrition science attributable to the health foods industry or its cohorts (eg, organic foods growers, natural foods suppliers, supplement or herbal trade associations). These entities have merely exploited consumers' health interests and concerns, and reinforced misconceptions about the safety and healthfulness of the food supply that improved their marketing positions. On the contrary, their influence has been regressive. The health foods industry has attacked food technologies as old as pasteurization and as new as irradiation. In addition, it has attacked public health measures such as fluoridation and immunization and made itself a conduit for diverting seriously ill patients from responsible medical care offering dubious nutritional remedies as "alternatives." There are international economics issues to consider as well. Recall how Europeans rejected American beef because of imaginary and infinitesimal growth hormone residues. The health foods industry should not be rewarded for undermining consumer confidence in a food supply system that is the envy of the world. Legislators must act responsibly on these issues because the outside world's perception of our food supply is likely to be a reflection of our own.
*The Proxmire Amendment was called "a charlatan's dream" by then FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt. Not only did the Amendment diminish consumer protection by reducing safety standards for dietary supplements, it threw away efficacy by prohibiting regulation on the basis of "nutritional rationality or utility."