Consumer Health Digest #01-32

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 6, 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.

Antioxidants may interfere with cholesterol drugs. A 1-year study of 153 patients has found that supplements of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium may interfere with the ability of simvastatin (Zocor) and niacin to raise the HDL levels of patients with abnormally low HDL levels. The patients receiving antioxidants and drugs had an average HDL increase of 18%, whereas the patients who received drugs alone has a 25% increase. However, HDL2-C, an HDL component thought to account for much of HDL's cardioprotective benefit, rose by 42% with drugs alone but was unchanged in patients who also received antioxidants. [Cheung MC and others. Antioxidant supplements block the response of HDL to Simvastatin-niacin therapy in patients with coronary artery disease and low HDL. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 21:1320, 2001.] Although the study was small and has not been replicated, it casts further doubt on the value of antioxidant supplementation.

Congressman's junket questioned. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, arranged for a government-paid trip to Frankfurt and Bonn this week, allegedly to investigate the German postal system. He is also visiting his wife, Barbara, who, according to Burton's aides, is undergoing an "experimental" cancer treatment at an undisclosed facility in Frankfurt. The aides disputed the idea that Burton's real purpose for the trip was to visit his wife. [Eilperin JE. Burton's German trip protested: Official visit to Frankfurt coincides with wife's treatment there. Washington Post, Aug 11, 2001] In recent years, Burton has held several hearings intended to criticize FDA interference with the marketing of quack methods. During the 1970s, as a state legislator, he spearheaded a bill to legalize the sale of laetrile within Indiana.

Aristolochic acid products recalled. Pacific Biologic has recalled product containing Akebia trifoliata caulis (Mu Tong) and Asarum sieboldii herba cum radix (Xi Xin) because they contain aristolochic acid, which can cause kidney toxicity and cancer. The products were Herbal Masters Arpanex B, Herbal Masters Cys, Herbal Masters Koms A, Balance & Harmony Artiflex B, Balance & Harmony Gentiana Combination, Balance & Harmony Allerhay, and Pacific Biologic Orthoflex. [Pacific Biologic recalls seven herbal products that contain the herb Akebia trifoliata caulis (Mu tong) and the herb Asarum sieboldii herba cum radix (Xi xin) because of a possible health risk. FDA news release, July 31, 2001]

Craniosacral therapy review published. Craniosacral therapy (also called cranial therapy) is based on the beliefs that skull-bone misalignments can adversely affect health by disturbing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and that manual pressure on the skull can remedy such problems. In 1999, after doing a comprehensive review of published studies, the British Columbia Office of Health Technology Assessment (BCOHTA) concluded that the theory is invalid and that practitioners cannot reliably measure what they claim to be modifying. The 68-page report concludes that "there is insufficient evidence to recommend craniosacral therapy to patients, practitioners, or third party payers." [Kazanjian A and others. A systematic review and appraisal of the scientific evidence on craniosacral therapy. BCOHTA, May 1999]

"Miss Cleo" marketers hit with $75,000 penalty. A Missouri judge has ordered Access Resource Services Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to pay $75,000 for making telemarketing calls to Missourians who have their phone numbers on the state's No Call list. In addition, the company must pay a stipulated and maximum penalty of $5,000 for each future violation. [Miss Cleo ordered to pay $75,000 for calling Missourians on No Call list; legal action on consumer fraud continues. News release, Aug 8, 2001] The company, which offers "psychic services," has generated many consumer complaints about deceptive marketing and overcharging.

Recommended consumer health books. Quackwatch has listed four reference books that are ideal for a consumer health library. (The books can be conveniently ordered from by clicking on the links.)

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This page was posted on August 13, 2001.