Consumer Health Digest #01-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 21, 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.

Study finds correlation between chiropractic manipulation and stroke. Canadian researchers have examined the relationships between chiropractic care and the incidence of vertebrovascular accidents (VBAs) due to vertebral artery dissection or blockage in Ontario, Canada, between 1993 and 1998. Using hospital records, each of 582 VBA cases was age- and sex-matched to four controls with no history of stroke. Health insurance billing records were used to document use of chiropractic services. The study found that VBA patients under age 45 were five times more likely than controls to (a) have visited a chiropractor within a week of the VBA and (b) to have had three or more visits with neck manipulations. No relationship was found after age 45. The authors discuss possible shortcomings of the study and urge that further research be done. [Rotherwell DM and others. Chiropractic manipulation and stroke. Stroke 32:1054-1060, 2001] An accompanying editorial states that data correspond to an incidence of 1.3 cases of vertebral artery dissection or blockage per 100,000 individuals receiving chiropractic neck manipulation.

Podiatrist's license revoked. The California Board of Podiatric Medicine, a unit of the state medical board, has revoked the license of Garey Lee Weber, DPM [1].Weber owns the Doctor's Foot & Ankle Centers, a podiatry corporation that employs seven other podiatrists and a large support staff in foot-care centers in Studio City, Irvine, and Victorville, California. In a recent interview, the Board's executive officer said the Board had received more complaints about Weber than any about any other doctor in the board's history. Weber has appealed to Superior Court and obtained a stay of the revocation until the court rules later this year. He has filed 20 lawsuits in what may be an attempt to bankrupt the Board. He has also filed 32 broad Public Record Act requests to tie up the Board's five-person and hired a lobbyist to seek a sunset elimination of the Board. In 1990, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ordered Weber and five associated to stop improper practices and to pay the Board $420,000 a national record for a medical board case. More information is available on Quackwatch.

Laetrile marketers convicted. On May 12, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Kenneth N. Michaelis, of Louisville, Ohio, and his company, Holistic Alternatives, Inc., each pled guilty to a felony charge of distributing an unapproved new drug, laetrile, in interstate commerce. Each also pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of distributing a misbranded drug, hydrazine sulfate, in interstate commerce. The unapproved new drug charge carries a maximum penalty of three years of imprisonment, one year of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. The misbranded drug charge carries a maximum of one year of imprisonment, one year of supervised release, and a $100,000 fine.The charges against the company carry a maximum fine of $500,000 on the unapproved new drug charge, $200,000 on the misbranded drug charge, and one to five years' probation on each charge. [Licking County Man and his company plead guilty to distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs. [Press release, U.S. Attorney's Office, Columbus, Ohio, May 14, 2001] The company, which has defied the FDA for many years, describes itself as "the oldest supplier of laetrile and hydrazine sulfate in the US."

NCAHF president testifies at WHCCAM hearing. On May 15, NCAHF president William London testified at a hearing held in Washington, D.C., by the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (WHCCAM). Noting that the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine (and its successor Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine have not identified a single method that should be discarded, he urged the Commission to recommend that that be done. The full text of his presentation is on the NCAHF Web site.

Marlboro Man attacked. A coalition of minority health activists , religious leaders, and corporate accountability activists is demanding that Philip Morris delete the Marlboro Man from its advertising because he is one of the leading causative factors in tobacco addiction among youth. Last month, activists demonstrated outside offices of the Leo Burnett, the advertising agency that created the Marlboro Man. Activists are also advocating a boycott of Philip Morris's Kraft Foods division. [Activists want Marlboro Man to ride off into the sunset. American Medical News, May 14, 2001.]

British "thyroid doctor" suspended. The license of Barry Durrant Peatfield, of Purley, Surrey, has been suspended from practice for 18 months while the General Medical Council investigates whether improperly diagnosed and treated patients that he claimed were suffering from hypothyroidism Although this may or may not lead to disciplinary action, the doctor states that he cannot afford to fight to clear his name and will therefore retire. According to a press report, he has relied on a body temperature test for diagnosis and used a desiccated thyroid product for treatment. Neither of these methods is considered proper by mainstream medical practitioners. [Investigation into thyroid doctor. BBC News, May 17, 2001]

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This page was revised on May 22, 2001.