Consumer Health Digest #01-38

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 17, 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.

NCAHF moves headquarters, elects new president. The National Council Against Health Fraud's main office is now located at 119 Foster Street, Peabody, MA 01960. On September 16, 2001, Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D., of Newton, Massachusetts, was elected NCAHF's president through December 2002. Dr. Baratz, who will supervise the new office, has held academic appointments at three major universities in both scientific and clinical departments; has been in clinical practice in dentistry, medicine, and emergency medicine; and has had extensive experience in medical administration and as a consultant for government agencies, professional associations, insurance companies, and industry.

Fraud Defense Network closing. The Fraud Defense Network (FDN), an Internet-based alliance of insurance companies, government agencies, and other interested parties who work against fraudulent activity, has announced that it will cease operations on October 15, 2001. Although no reason has been disclosed, it is safe to assume that the insurance industry did not provide enough support to keep it going. FDN maintained a Web site and published a free monthly electronic newsletter that was distributed to more than 6000 interested persons.

Chiropractic response to terrorist attack. Eric Plasker, D.C., a practice-builder who asserts that "everyone on this planet should have access to chiropractic from the time they are born until the time they draw their last breath," published a strategy for chiropractors to promote their services as part of the public response. His Web site suggest that chiropractors "contribute to and lead the healing of our country by making a commitment to laying our hands on as many people as possible in the coming days." His recommended press release advises people to lower their stress level by have their spine adjusted:

Stress reactions can cause physical, mental, spiritual and organic exhaustion that lead to immediate and chronic health problems. Chiropractors globally see millions of people who suffer from the negative impact of stress. Chiropractic care calms the nerve system and promotes immediate stress relief as well as long-term health and well being.

Plasker also advises chiropractors to (a) urge the public to donate money through chiropractic offices for victim relief and (b) to offer a free spinal adjustment to people who donate to Red Cross relief efforts.

Child dies on "fruitarian" diet. Garabet and Hazmik Manuelyan, a British couple whose 9-month-old daughter Areni died of malnutrition and pneumonia after being fed a fruit-based diet, have been placed under a community rehabilitation order for three years. They were vegans, but in 1996 switched to a diet consisting of raw vegetables, fruit, and nuts. After Areni's birth, a pediatrician told the parents that the child was not developing properly and that the mother's breast milk was nutritionally deficient. Their other two children have been taken into custody. The couple had pleaded guilty to child cruelty, a charge that normally gets a jail sentence. But the judge said what had happened to the family was punishment enough. [Baby death parents spared jail. BBC News, Sept 15, 2001]

Scientologist/physician facing one-year suspension. On August 3, 2001, the Florida Board of Medicine fined David Ira Minkoff, M.D., $10,000 and suspended his license for one year, to be followed by two years of probation—unless he successfully appeals the decision. [Tobin TC, Ulferts A. Doctor in Lisa McPherson case suspended. St. Petersburg Times, Aug 4, 2001] Minkoff was investigated after the death of Lisa McPherson, who allegedly died while in the custody of other Scientologists. Documents in the case indicate that even though Minkoff had never met McPherson, he prescribed sedative medication by telephone to Church of Scientology staff members who had called on her behalf. Although admitting no guilt, Minkoff reached a $100,000 settlement in 1997 in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McPherson's estate. [Morgan L. Doctor settles his part of wrongful death suit: The doctor who pronounced Scientologist Lisa McPherson dead pays her estate $100,000. St. Petersburg Times, Sept 15, 1998.

AltCareDex™ Dietary supplement/herbal database called untrustworthy. Dr. Stephen Barrett has concluded that Micromedix Thompson Healthcare's AltCareDex™ database of "herbal and alternative remedies" posted on the American Academy of Family Physicians Web site is highly misleading. Although AltCareDex™ contains some useful information, much of it is superficial and many of the "What is it?" sections list possible uses without stating which ones are unsubstantiated or senseless. The rest of the information on the AAFP site appears to be excellent. The most trustworthy online supplement/herb site is the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which is available by subscription.

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This page was posted on September 17, 2001.