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NCAHF News, May/June 1997

Volume 20, Issue #3

MANUFACTURER NOW SAYS SHARK CARTILAGE
DOESN'T WORK FOR CANCER

Cartilage Technologies, now called Bio Therapies, stated in a 12/26/96 press release that Cartilade (shark cartilage) is not effective against cancer.   Curiously, Cartilade was the original product manufactured and promoted by I. William Lane, author of Sharks Don't Get Cancer, and its sequel, Sharks Still Don't Get Cancer.  Lane acknowledges that Cartilade is ineffective against cancer.  He says that after he sold the company, the new owners rendered his "first generation" product ineffective. However, he says that Benefin, his "second generation" product, is effective.  Lane claims that using fresh or quick frozen shark cartilage makes the difference.

Comment: Hmmm, Don't the new owners know this?  Is it so hard to do?  Maybe Lane has to be selling it for it to work!  Is 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace still standing by his story? For useful information on shark cartilage and cancer we recommend "Shark cartilage therapy against cancer," by cancer research consultant and NCAHF board member Saul Green, PhD in Nutrition & Health Forum, Jan-Feb, 1997.

REFORMER DISCUSSES CHIROPRACTIC ABUSES

Florida chiropractor, John Campo, discusses the possible benefits and common abuses done by his fellow practitioners in the Summer, 1996 issue of the Florida Orthopaedic Journal.  Campo believes that the greatest benefits offered by DCs are the specific application of spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) when indicated, physical therapy modalities, exercise therapy, and ergonomics . Contraindications to SMT are many.   Campo has been warning about prolonged care and unnecessary patient dependency for years.  Other problems he lists are the use of unproven procedures--including SMT of alleged "subluxations," manipulation of the cranial bones, muscle-testing to diagnose visceral disorders, the use of percussion instruments to change leg lengths, false diagnoses, inappropriate, in-office testing procedures, and over treatment.

BRUCE HALSTEAD IMPRISONED AFTER 12-YEAR DELAY

In 1985, Bruce W. Halstead was convicted of 24 counts of cancer fraud.  After losing an appeal, he was stripped of his medical license and sentenced to 32 months in prison.  But federal officials never handed down the order for him to start serving his sentence.  Twelve years passed, during which Halstead even landed an important Department of Defense contract to develop a computerized bank of toxin research data to provide doctors with instant access to such information (Halstead is a respected marine toxicologist).  But last summer Halstead was recognized by an Orange County prosecutor when he testified in court as an expert witness.  A call to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office brought the SNAFU to light. (SNAFU is military jargon for "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up!") After several months of legal maneuvering, Halstead was taken into custody in February. His age (77) and medical condition bought him some leniency.  His sentence was shortened with a release date of May 12.

[Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1997, B1&6]

Comment: Although Halstead no longer is allowed to practice medicine, he still promotes questionable health products, including to cancer patients.  NCAHF has been told that he appeared at a cancer support group where he bashed standard care.  He also sells a dietary supplement, Age Defense Tonic, which he imports from China to his company Bio-Defense Nutritions of Grand Terrace, California.  The list of ingredients reveals that it is a concoction of herbs, vitamins, and other substances not likely to have any real effect on aging, but since the passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health & Education Act, almost anything goes.  Halstead also has a legal defense fund to which his disciples may contribute and publishes a newsletter that expounds his views.   None of these activities are illegal.

TAHITIAN NONI? SAVE YOUR "MONI"($$)!

A Polynesian folk remedy, the plant Morinda citrifolia, is being huckstered as "Tahitian noni," "noni juice," and similar names. Dr. Varro Tyler says that the fruit contains a small amount of volatile oils.  He says the plant's leaves, fruit, and bark each are used to treat a wide variety of ailments in the islands, but that there is very little scientific information on safety and efficacy. Most disturbing is that cancer is mentioned in a number of the sources as one of the diseases noni has been tested upon.  The literature we were able to obtain shows some interesting biological activity meaning that noni does have potential for both good and ill depending upon how it is used.  Noni is being sold by multilevel marketing within a vacuum of definitive information.  This means that consumers need to be doubly alert to both financial and health exploitation.

NEW AGE NURSES REFUSE TO TAKE $1 MILLION CHALLENGE

On May 21, Robert J. Glickman informed interested parties that the last of three Therapeutic Touch practitioners (TTPs) had "bailed out."  The TTPs had said they would take on the $1 million challenge made jointly by his Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT) and the James Randi Educational Foundation to demonstrate the ability to detect the presence of an "energy field" around a human being.

TTPs claim to be able to detect disturbances in the alleged "energy field," smooth it out, and/or transfer "energy" from the practitioner to the patient.   In a 1994 report, a scientific jury for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center declared that "there is virtually no acceptable scientific evidence concerning the existence or nature of these energy fields.  There is no ongoing research, nor even any ideas about how such research might be conducted." 

Despite the fact that TT advocates--many of whom are Registered Nurses with advanced degrees--have not figured out a way to test TT, professional magician and renowned psychic investigator James Randi has devised simple tests to determine whether "energy fields" exist in reality versus in the imaginations of TTP-true believers.  The TTP is asked to discern whether or not a subject's arms have been inserted into fiberglass sleeves.  TTPs claim to be able to discern the energy field when they know the subject's arms are in the sleeves; the question is whether or not they can do it under blinded conditions. "This is something they claim to be able to do every day in their practice, so why not come to Philadelphia and show us?" asks Randi. Glickman points out that there is nothing to prevent TTPs from conducting this simple test among themselves if they are truly interested in validating their theory. For more information contact Robert Glickman, RN at 215-533-4677; James Randi; or Linda Rosa, RN, Coordinator, NCAHF Task Force on Questionable Nursing Practices, Box 7117, Loveland, CO 80537; 970-667-7313, fax 669-7194,

POVERTY OF THERAPEUTIC TOUCH "RESEARCH" EXPOSED

The National Therapeutic Touch Study Group (NTTSG) has published a 180-page Survey of Therapeutic Touch "Research" as of March, 1997. "Research" is placed within quotation marks because it becomes clear that most of the work falls short of what deserves the name.  The tome provides a history of why and how the document came to be. It contains the following sections (italicized) and contents: Describing TT presents TT in the words of leading TT proponents themselves.

State of the Art reveals where TT actually is.  This is important because proponents claim to have established TT scientifically. Rosa shows here that TT is a "pseudoscience." Trans-Research Claims cites claims made by TT researchers that have not even been addressed by their research.  This section more than any other speaks to the amount of quackery in TT. Historical Survey provides a fascinating snapshot of how TT came to be.

The "Research" organizes 137 papers into 7 categories: metabolic change, hematology, analgesia, relaxation, other mental states, effect on practitioners, qualitative research, and miscellany. Abstracts and critiques of each study follows under each category.  There are 4 annex sections: Bibliography, Categorization of Quinn's Reading List (purported to justify TT in an academic setting to a committee investigating TT at the University of Colorado in 1992), Government Statements, and Development of TT.

The last section is a comprehensive article entitled "Hand to hand combat: what happens when a skeptical nurse takes on pseudo-nursing?" that presents the whole sordid story of TT and its development.  It is well-suited for use as a handout for students.  This monograph is an essential item for anyone who wants to be fully informed on the realities behind this New Age nursing pseudoscience.  It also serves as a model for others who may be evaluating a controversial field to emulate. The project was carried out by Linda Rosa, RN. Order from the NTTSG, 711 W. 9th Street, Loveland, CO 80537-4669; tel: 970-667-7313; $20 postage-paid.

TT FAILS CHILD'S TEST

For a school science project Linda Rosa's 10-year-old daughter, Emily, devised a simple test to determine whether or not a TT practitioner could sense the alleged human energy field.  Working behind a blind, she would place her hand above that of 15 TT practitioners or massage therapists who believed they could sense the field.  The test subjects had a 5/10 chance at merely guessing correctly; they scored an average 4.7/10.  Emily's elegant test will be featured on PBS TV's Scientific American Frontiers this fall.

FINAL JUDGMENT AGAINST GONZALES $2.5 MILLION+

In the last issue, we reported that a jury had awarded a patient $4.7 million in a judgment against New York City physician Nicholas Gonzales, MD.  At the time of our writing, the jury had not completed its work.  It turned out that the plaintiff's award was reduced to $2.5 million because she was deemed to be partially responsible for the damage done to her because she knowingly used an unapproved cancer remedy.  The jury also awarded $150,000 in punitive damages against Dr. Gonzales.

INSURANCE COVERAGE OF 'ALTERNATIVE' MEDICINE

Kenneth Pelletier and colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program surveyed 18 insurance companies about their coverage of the kinds of nonstandard medicine listed by the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine.  All 18 plans reimbursed for chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, 17 covered acupuncture, 16 covered biofeedback, and 12 covered nutrition counseling.   None covered homeopathy, herbology, reflexology, massage, iridology, or any of the "more experimental techniques."

INJECTED HERBAL TEA BLAMED IN CANCER PATIENT'S DEATH

A 54-year-old Michigan woman died within a few hours after her physician injected Essiac herb tea into her veins as a cancer remedy. Essiac is an herbal tea named by Renee Caisse (her own name spelled backward), a public health nurse in Canada who learned of the tea from an Indian woman.  A few patients seemed to do better on the tea, which made Caisse believe something useful was happening.  Although Essiac has been tested and found worthless, it has become so well-known in Canada that the government tolerates it because drinking it is considered harmless.  The 1990 OTA report Unconventional Cancer Treatments has an informative section on Essiac.

Petra Hall, 54, who suffered from chronic leukemia, and her husband Archie, who suffered from malignant melanoma were once featured on the CBS television show 48 Hours in connection with her treatment by a New York doctor (unidentified in the article) "who specialized in nutrition therapy for cancer."  The TV appearance had made the Halls well-known for their battle against cancer in their hometown of Ferrysburg, Michigan (Archie died on 1/1/96).

Petra Hall was being treated by Sandor Olah, DO, of Hamilton, Michigan. On 1/26/96, Olah administered Essiac* intravenously to Hall, who began to experience shortness of breath and other symptoms following the treatment.  Nevertheless, Olah sent Hall home.  Later that day she checked into Hackley Hospital in Muskegon where she experienced multiple organ failure, dying 11 days later.  Cause of death was listed as "respiratory distress syndrome due to vitamin therapy." Dr. Olah, 51, who is described by his attorney as "a fine human being and a Christian man," faces charges of negligence and incompetence by the Dept of Consumer and Industry services, which has suspended his license.  His attorney has filed a motion with the state for an emergency hearing two days after the suspension took effect.  A family member stated that she did not think one of them had filed a complaint. [The Holland Sentinel, 4/18/97]

Comment: This story is typical of a persistent type of cancer quackery involving a willingness to try anything.  Such cases disclose a near-total empty-mindedness on the part of both patient and practitioner, ie, emotion displaces rational thinking, and irresponsible behavior follows.  The state cannot tolerate irresponsible behavior that results in a person's death, whether it involves vehicular homicide or medical misconduct.   However, societal attitudes are likely to overlook the incompetence of the physician and excuse him for empathizing with the desperation of the victim.

Regardless of whose idea it was to inject the herb tea, the act was an irresponsible experiment.  Interestingly, the setting of this case is Michigan, the home of Dr. Kevorkian.  The state has been unable to get a jury conviction for his complicity in suicide.  A key difference is that Dr.K's patients sought death, but Dr. Olah's patient hoped to live.  What would the ethicists have to say about this kind of a situation?

DR ROSENFELD'S GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

Ann Landers told her readers in early June to "run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and spend $25.95 on Dr. Rosenfeld's Guide to Alternative Medicine."   People are asking if NCAHF agrees. William Jarvis says that he has not read the book but he has read an article by Rosenfeld ("Rating Alternative Medicine," Good Housekeeping, January, 1997) which was billed as being from his "forthcoming book."  In the article Rosenfeld gave his bottom-line opinion on the following:

Acupuncture:  Legitimate pain control technique; worth trying for chronic disorders, addictions, nausea from chemotherapy.

Aromatherapy:  Not a major player in the fight against disease. May relieve stress and help manage some skin disorders.

Ayurveda:  No proof of value. Don't be indoctrinated into this ancient system. Meditation can help people relax.

Chiropractic:  Sometimes useful for back pain. No evidence of value for anything else. MD should confer with DC along with referrals.

Homeopathy: Stay away except for non-life- threatening conditions that have not responded to standard care.

Hypnosis:  Can be beneficial when properly used. Should be part of on-going supportive program of psychotherapy.

Biofeedback:  Legitimate, cheap and safe for a wide variety of conditions. Worth a try under any circumstances.

Guided Imagery:  May make people with chronic problems feel better, but won't cure anything.

Meditation:  Can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and the concentration of stress hormones (cortisol) in the blood stream. People who meditate correctly and regularly enjoy it and feel better.

Rosenfeld does an above-average job of explaining the placebo effect.

Comment: I agree with most of Rosenfeld's evaluations, but I have a few quibbles. Re: Acupuncture: Rosenfeld states that while in China in 1978 he witnessed an open-heart surgery of a young woman who was awake and "anesthetized solely with acupuncture." Jarvis recalls the following report:

A Chinese newspaper admitted in 1980 that "for years visitors to China were fooled about anesthetic techniques, once heralded as a milestone in medicine. During the late 1960s and the 1970s, visitors were often invited to watch operations on patients who were awake but who had allegedly been anaesthetized with acupuncture needles. The latest issue of a Shanghai newspaper, Wen Hui Bao, said many of the patients also had been secretly given a pain-killing drug. The newspaper said many doctors and patients during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) were forced to use the acupuncture method regardless of its effectiveness because of "the political needs of the time." It said, "Even when patients felt pain during an operation, they were not allowed to scream, but could only shout out political slogans. [Earnshaw. "Acupuncture hoax admitted," The Australian, 10/26/80:1]

The powerful effect of personal experience may have had undue influence on Dr. Rosenfeld, but there is evidence that acupuncture can have an above average placebo effect on pain.

Re: Meditation:  Okay, people can relax this way, and physiological responses are altered by relaxation, and meditation is no better than lying quietly.   When discontinued the physiological responses change again.  Don't substitute meditation for medication unless your condition is carefully monitored and proven to be effectively controlled.  People can fool themselves by adopting such techniques on a faith-based belief that they will help.  When it comes to deadly, albeit symptomless, conditions such as high blood pressure, it is important to know that the effect is lasting.  The German government found that meditation had a serious down-side for people who overdid it.

ALGAE GURU DEAD AT 70

Christopher Hills, Jr, a microbiologist who was heavily involved in the health food and human consciousness movements, died Jan 31, 1997 at Boulder Creek, California.  In 1966, Hills co-discovered spirulina blue-green algae as a potential food source, and promoted it as a dietary supplement.  After becoming a millionaire, he moved to Boulder Creek where he started his University of the Trees.  The cause of death was not stated.

MORE FOR PROFIT, LESS FOR CARE UNDER MANAGED-CARE

Time magazine reports that less is going for patient care and more for profits and administration under managed care programs. Under the old fee-for-service plans, such as not-for-profit Blue Cross administered, 96% of the total monthly payment of $200 went for care.  Not-for-profit Kaiser Permanente used 94% of its $145 monthly payment for care. Not-for-profit Harvard Pilgrim used 89% of its $150 monthly payment for care.

For-profit HealthNet spent only 80% of its $115 monthly premium on care.  In dollars this indicates that on care Blue Cross spent $192, Kaiser $136, Harvard Pilgrim $134, and HealthNet $92; and, $8, $9, $14, and $23 respectively on profits and administration.  The for-profit company seems to be simultaneously saving money and making a greater profit.

This is what planners hoped, but the question is, at what cost in terms of the quality of patient care?  The ability of the not-for-profits to compete is hampered by the lower monthly payment of the for-profit.  Quality always costs more, they say, but how are consumers to determine quality?  Are they the ones deciding on which company they will choose, or is it a tight-fisted employer?  One-third of companies polled by the Washington Business Group on Health express concern that the pressure to keep costs down is hurting the quality of care their employees receive. 74% believe that insurance company greed is the cause of the high cost of medical care.

[Time, April 14, 1997, pp.32-9]

EXPOSING "MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY"

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity" (MCS) is used to describe people with numerous troubling symptoms attributed to environmental problems.  Dr. Stephen Barrett has recently completed a complete review of MCS, and concluded that it is not a valid diagnosis.  Rather, "it is a phenomenon in which people misinterpret irritant or stress responses as 'allergies' or 'toxicities' and alter their behavior abnormally."  

Instead of testing their claims with well-designed research, Dr. Barrett says that they promote them in the public arena.  Barrett does not deny that those who believe themselves to have MCS suffer greatly--they do.  The tragedy is that misdiagnosis and mistreatment lead to needless continued suffering and financial exploitation.  A summary of Barrett's findings is the feature article in the March/April issue of Nutrition Forum.

Note: Nutrition Forum, which was known as Nutrition & Health Forum for a few months, has reclaimed its original name.  This is to reflect the fact that the publication has returned to its original focus on the latest developments in nutrition-related quackery, hype, and misinformation.

NF's new editor, Lewis Vaughn, is former editor of Prevention magazine.   Vaughn distinguished himself as a higher critic of pseudoscience with the publication of his acclaimed book on critical thinking, How To Think About Weird Things (Mayfield, 1995).  A one-year subscription to Nutrition Forum (6 issues) is available for the introductory rate of $30 for individuals in the USA and Canada; $40 for institutions and overseas. Call 1-800-421-0351 for credit card orders, or send a check made out to "Prometheus Books" to NF at Prometheus, 59 John Glenn Dr., Amherst, NY 14228-2197.

DHEA WARNINGS

The FDA is not the only one warning people against self-dosing with DHEA.  The Center For Science in the Public Interest also says that DHEA use by consumers is not wise.  In one of the best articles on the topic we've seen, authors address the various claims and present the current evidence on using the hormone-precursor.   Claims for DHEA include: life extension, prevention of heart disease, cancer prevention, fat melting, sexual stimulation, prevention of osteoporosis, boosts the immune system, improves mood, treats Alzheimer's disease, and provides relief from lupus. Most are either unproven or unlikely, but some have promise.  The problem is that DHEA can affect the physiology and must be used carefully.

[Schardt D, Schmidt S. "DHEA: not ready for prime time," Nutrition Action Newsletter, 3/97]

NUTRITION INFORMATION IN POPULAR
MAGAZINES A BIT MORE ACCURATE

The American Council on Science & Health reviewed the accuracy of articles on nutrition from 1992-1994.  The survey was the sixth in a series that began in 1982.   The survey rated 15 out of 20 magazines excellent or good sources of nutrition information.  This was the first time that a majority of publications earned topmost ratings.

Three magazine were rated excellent (90-100% accurate): Consumer Reports, Better Homes and Gardens, and Parents. Twelve magazine were rated good (80-80% accurate): Cooking Light, Glamour, Reader's Digest, American Health, Prevention, Self, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, Redbook, and Health. Four were rated fair (70-79% accurate): Men's Health, New Woman, Vogue, and Runner's World.   Alone in the poor category (below 70% accuracy) was Cosmopolitan.

Magazines once were the public's number one source of nutrition information, but a 1995 report by the American Dietetic Association found that television has become first with 42%; magazines were second at 39%, which is still a substantial number.  The complete report is available for $3.85 postage-paid (USA, Canada, & Mexico only) from the ACSH at 1995 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY, NY 10023-5860.

ALT-MED'S NEW POSTER BOY: ANDREW WEIL, MD

Last year it was Deepak Chopra, before that, Bernie Siegel, MD--currently, the poster boy for alternative-complementary medicine is Andrew Weil.  Weil's bald & bushy-faced countenance peers out at Americans from the cover of Time magazine (5/12/97) along with the questions: "Can this guy make you healthy? and "Medicine man Dr. Andrew Weil has made New Age remedies popular. Is it sound advice or snake oil?"

Time's decision to popularize Andrew Weil by placing him on its esteemed cover is tainted by its possible self-interest.  The article admits that a corporate cousin of the magazine, Time New Media, was negotiating with Weil regarding an affiliation with his website (we are told that a deal has been finalized).  In any case, the article seems well-balanced to me.  I have been a Weil-watcher since his early years when he was known as an advocate of marijuana and other recreational drugs.  I watched Weil on PBS television's fund raising effort this year (last year they used Deepak Chopra).

Weil's health promotion messages are trite and sophomoric.  They are beneath the expectation I would have for a physician. Weil is basically a story-teller.  He spins yarns about miracle cures.  A bee sting leads to an arthritis cure, taking charge of one's own health results in the remission of multiple sclerosis, hypnotherapy cures a girl's cancer, and so on.  These anecdotes must be accepted on faith, but people seem only too willing to do so.

Among the most trite of Weil's propositions is his proclamation that the body heals itself--well, duh!  Unless Weil was testing one of his psychotropic drugs when he should have been paying attention in class, he should know that the entire premise of scientific medicine is founded upon that principle.  Hippocrates is acknowledged as the Father of Scientific Medicine because he was able to establish the idea that disease and healing were due to natural, not supernatural causes under the control of capricious gods.  The body possessed its own healing powers, and a physician's job was to work with these processes. Hippocrates invented the term "physician" using the root word physikos, the Greek word for "nature," to denote that disease and healing were natural, not supernatural, and that the body possessed inherent self-healing powers.

Weil's health regimen is little more than a mosaic today's fads.  The only idea he espouses that is not a fad heard elsewhere is his recommendation that people take a one-day news fast, ie, stop watching the news to avoid anxiety.  It seems pretty obvious to this observer that Weil appeals to the "health seekers" because they are constantly in search of physicians who will validate their wishful thinking.  The content of the article didn't glorify Weil, but Time did him enormous public relations benefit by putting him on its cover.


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