Consumer Health Digest #01-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 12, 2001

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. 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.

Vitamin E flunks test. Although oxidative damage due to free radicals appears to be important in the development of many common diseases, research findings related to antioxidant supplements have been contradictory. In a recent double-blind study, healthy adult volunteers received 200, 400, 800, 1200, or 2000 IU/day of vitamin E or placebo for 8 weeks, followed by an 8-week washout period. Alrhough their serum vitamin E levels increased as the dosage increased and reached a steady-state by 8 weeks, no significant effect of vitamin E was observed on 3 types of lipid peroxidation. These results question the rationale for vitamin E supplementation in healthy individuals. [Meagher EA and others. Effects of vitamin E on lipid peroxidation in healthy persons. JAMA 285:1178-1182, 2001.]

California Dental Association can resume policing ads. The Federal Trade Commission has dropped a 1993 complaint that had charged the California Dental Association (CDA) with "illegally preventing California dentists from informing consumers about the price and quality of their services." The FTC had begun investigating CDA's code of ethics in 1985 and in 1990 had ordered the CDA to stop enforcing its advertising provisions. But the CDA refused, on grounds that its code targeted only false or misleading ads. The battle culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that (a) the FTC has jurisdiction over the rules for professional advertising, but (b) the agency had not adequately examined the nature and effect of the CDA's policies. A lower court then ruled that the complaint should be dismissed. Although the agency could have made further appeals, it chose not to do so. The fact that the courts recognized FTC jurisdiction is good, because it means that the agency can attack improper behavior by professional organizations. The fact that it dismissed the CDA complaint is also good, because appropriate codes of ethics are needed to help protect the public against misleading advertising.

New report on "chiropractic science and practice." The International Chiropractors Association (ICA) has submitted a 44-page report to the White House Commission Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. The report—"Chiropractic Science and Practice in the United States"—suggests that everyone's health is threatened by spinal problems, which (a) may not have any symptoms, (b) can only be detected by chiropractors, (c) should be searched for and corrected periodically from birth onward, (d) and should be covered by insurance policies. Chirobase has posted a response to these points. The full text is available on the ICA Web site.

Physician databank now accessible. Information on disciplinary actions against currently licensed medical doctors, osteopaths, and physician assistants is now available from the Federation Physician Data Center (DocInfo), which is operated by the Federation of State Medical Boards. The database includes more than 115,000 actions taken against 35,000 physicians since the early 1960s. The reports, which include the date and reason for each action, cost $9.95 per physician search.

Another study debunks vaccination/autism link. A study by the California Department of Developmental Services has analyzed 20 years of data for children born between 1980 and 1994 and found no relationship between early measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) immunization and the caseload of children with autism. [Dales L and others. Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California. JAMA 285:1183-1185, 2001.]

FTC sues bogus medical billing opportunity telemarketer. A federal district court has temporarily enjoined a California-based telemarketing scheme that sold work-at-home medical billing opportunities. Medicor LLC, and its manager, Andrew Rubin, promised consumers that they could earn up to $1,500 per week using their home computers to process medical bills for physicians in the consumers' community. The FTC alleges that the defendants touted false earnings claims and misrepresented that they would arrange for buyers to get medical billing work from doctors. The "business opportunity" cost $325 to $495.

New NCAHF contact information. As of March 20, the National Council Against Health Fraud's telephone number for inquiries about
for memberships and newsletter subscriptions will be (909) 558-4690 in Loma Linda, California. Inquiries about matters related to health misinformation, fraud, and quackery should still go to (201) 723-2955 in Fort Lee New Jersey.

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This page was posted on March 12, 2001.