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Consumer Health Digest #01-13

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 26, 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.

Chelation therapy study finds no benefit. A study conducted by Dr. D. George Wyse and colleagues at the University of Calgary has found that cardiac patients receiving chelation therapy did no better than those who received placebo treatment. The study included 84 patients who were randomly assigned to get intravenous infusions twice weekly for 15 weeks followed by monthly treatments for three months. After six months, no difference was found between the two groups, but both groups were able to increase their walking time on a treadmill by an average of one minute. [Haney DQ. Chelation therapy doesn't help heart patients, study finds. Associated Press, March 21, 2001.] The study was reported on March 21 at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando, Florida. Chelation therapy involves series of intravenous infusions containing disodium EDTA and various other substances. Its proponents falsely claim that it is effective against kidney and heart disease, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, emphysema, multiple sclerosis, gangrene, psoriasis, and many other serious conditions. Chelation therapy with calcium EDTA is one of several legitimate methods for treating cases of lead poisoning, but the protocol used by "chelation therapists" uses sodium EDTA and has no proven value. Dr. Wyse's study was designed with help from members of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), which is the main proponent organization. In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a consent decree barring ACAM from advertising that chelation is effective against cardiovascular disease or any other disease of the circulatory system. But the agreement permits ACAM members to continue to lie about its value.

"Christian Brothers" ordered to stop Laetrile sales. Jason Vale, who used a forged AOL return address to send more than 20 million e-mail messages promoting his quack cancer products, has been ordered by a federal judge to stop marketing his products. The FDA has issued a detailed report about how Vale lied to FDA inspectors in an attempt to conceal his illegal activity. [Lewis, C. Online Laetrile vendor ordered to shut down. FDA Consumer 35(2):7-38, 2001.]

New cholesterol guidelines will be issued soon. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) will soon issue its third set of guidelines for cholesterol management. A conference on how professional can implement them is scheduled for June 3-5 in Washington, D.C. Those who register by May 1 will save $100 from the $325 fee. The NCEP was launched in 1985 to contribute to reducing illness and death from coronary heart disease by reducing the percentage of Americans with high blood cholesterol. Its first two sets of guidelines were issued in 1987 and 1993.

Chiropractic pros and cons. The January/February 2001 issue of Skeptical Inquirer contains an excellent article by Samuel Homola, D.C., on the strengths and weaknesses of the chiropractic profession. He concludes.

A good chiropractor can do a lot to help you when you have mechanical-type back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. But until the chiropractic profession cleans up its act, and its colleges uniformly graduate properly limited chiropractors who specialize in neuromusculoskeletal problems, you'll have to exercise caution and informed judgment when seeking chiropractic care.

A slightly modified version has been posted to Quackwatch.

Chiropractors helped Bush campaign. Arlan W. Fuhr, D.C., president and co-founder of Activator Methods, has vividly described his activities at Bush campaign headquarters in Austin Texas. His report states that he was invited to go after his wife offered his services to help relieve the staff's "stress level." After getting a temporary Texas license, he flew from Phoenix to Austin where he set up a portable table in the lunchroom and "adjusted" about 40 people during a 2-day period. [Fuhr AW. Stress along the Campaign Trail. Activator Vision 16(1):3, 20, 2001] Activator Methods Chiropractic Technique is a diagnostic and treatment system centered on the idea that leg-length analysis can locate "subluxations" and determine when to adjust the spine (usually with a spring-loaded mallet). However, the article did not mention whether he used this approach with Bush's staff.

Stuart Warner, D.C., chairman of the subluxation-based World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA), and WCA board member Patrick Gentempo, D.C. attended George W. Bush's inaugural celebration. The WCA's newspaper stated that they and their wives were invited because of their "high level of support and involvement in the Republican Party." According to the article, Warner stated that "it was important to set the game plan for meeting with as many influential legislators as possible to assist in furthering the chiropractic mission." The Federal Election Commission database indicates that Warner gave $4,500 during 2000 and Gentempo gave a total of $15,500 from 1998 through 2000 to the New Jersey and national Republican committees. Warner and Gentempo are two leaders of "Chiropractic Pediatrics U" (formerly called ChiroPediatric World Tour), a subluxation-based program that encourages chiropractors check and "adjust" the spine from birth onward and to oppose immunization.

Chiropractor admits to insurance scam. On March 15, 2001, Daniel Fontanella, a former Totowa, New Jersey, chiropractor, pleaded guilty to bilking two dozen insurance companies out of $500,000. Arthur Margeotes, Passaic County's chief assistant prosecutor in charge of insurance fraud, stated that (a) Fontanella overbilled for 300 patients who visited his Union Boulevard clinic during 1996 and 1997 and (b) had patients sign multiple forms which he later backdated to make it appear that the patients had come in for treatment more frequently than they actually had. In 1999, the county impaneled a special grand jury intended to target both the street-level criminals who were staging car crashes the doctors and lawyers who were servicing them. Eighteen months of investigation then led to indictments for about 100 people, mostly poor Hispanics who participated in phony wrecks and received small awards for their efforts. [Hughes JV. Ex-doctor admits to $500,000 of fraud, Bergen Record, March 16, 2001.]

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This page was posted on March 26, 2001.