Consumer Health Digest #01-18

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 30, 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.

MICOM death triggers manslaughter charge. Joyce Brown, an unlicensed nurse, has been charged with manslaughter related to the death of a cancer patient whom traveled from Louisiana to Kelso, Washington, to receive treatment with a quack cancer remedy called MICOM. Another of Brown's patients had a severe reaction to the product and spent several days on a respirator. [Ayles F. Nurse pleads not guilty. The Daily News (Longview, Washington), April 27, 2001.] MICOM is claimed to be a "complex mineral solution" that increases cellular oxygen to levels that prevent the growth of cancer cells. However, the notion that cancer is related to low oxygen levels was discredited many years ago. Additional information about MICOM is available on Quackwatch.

Studies undercut claim that polio vaccine triggered AIDS epidemic. Journalist Edward Hooper's 1999 book The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS, asserts that researchers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania used chimpanzee kidney tissues infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) when developing an oral polio vaccine and inadvertently contaminated their vaccine stocks with the virus. He alleges that when these vaccines were tested in as many as one million people in the Congo between 1957 and 1959, they seeded the human population with HIV-1—the strain that most commonly causes AIDS. The April 26, 2001, issue of the journal Nature has published reports from four independent research groups who found no trace of chimpanzee tissue in any of the remaining frozen stocks of the original vaccine, including a vial of the stock used to create the vaccine tested in the Congo. They also detected neither HIV nor its primate form and closest ancestor, simian immunodeficiency virus. They also present evidence that the virus emerged in human populations before the Congo vaccine trial.

Institute of Medicine attacks MMR/Autism link. The Institute of Medicine's Immunization Safety Review Committee has found no relationship between the use of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autistic disorders. The committee also found no proven biological mechanisms that would explain such a relationship. This conclusion has been published in Immunization Safety Review: Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine and Autism, a 90-page paperback that can be ordered from National Academy Press or read online. This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and British health authorities have reached similar conclusions for largely the same reasons.

Shortcomings of projective psychological tests. Three psychologists have concluded that the Rorschach Inkblot Test, Thematic Apperception Test, Draw-a-Person Test (DAP), Bender-Gestalt Test, Rozenzweig Picture-Frustration Study (PFS), and Sentence Completion Test (SCT), are unlikely to contribute information that cannot be obtained from simpler tests or from other sources. Their conclusions, published in October 2000 in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, have been summarized in the May 2001 issue of Scientific American. [Lillienfeld SO, Wood JN, Garb HN. The scientific status of projective techniques. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 1(2):27-65, 2000. Lillienfeld SO, Wood JN, Garb HN. What's wrong with this picture? Scientific American, May 2001, pp 81-87]

Neurotherapy debunked. Science & Pseudoscience Review in Mental Health, a group that evaluates clinical services that appear to be at odds with scientific evidence, has reported that self-regulation of brain-wave activity ("neurotherapy," also called "neurofeedback) does not qualify as an empirically supported behavioral treatment for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders, substance dependence, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, or dissociative disorders.

Heart and stroke statistics update. The American Heart Association's 2001 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update is now available online. The report cautions that raw prevalence and incidence figures cannot be directly compared to their counterparts from years ago. Although age-adjusted death rates from cardiovascular disease have been steadily declining, the total number of such deaths is greater because the American population has been increasing and many more Americans are living longer.

Three out of five Americans now have Internet access. Nielsen/NetRatings has determined that in January 2001, Internet penetration in the United States reached 60%, with more than 169 million people having Web access from either home or workplace. At-work connections accounted for 14% of all Web access (41 million office workers), and home access comprised 58% (162 million surfers).

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This page was posted on April 30, 2001.