Consumer Health Digest #01-41

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 8, 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.

American Heart Association hits high-protein diets. The nutrition committee of the American Heart Association has issued a science advisory warning that high-protein diets have not been proven effective and pose health risks. [St. Joer TS and others. Dietary protein and weight reduction. Circulation 104:1869-1974, 2001] The report covered the Atkins, Zone, Protein Power, Sugar Busters, and Stillman diets. The committee stated:

Quackwatch has additional information on low-carbohydrate diets.

Cancer drug (Lupron) manufacturer to pay huge fine. TAP Pharmaceuticals of Illinois has agreed to pay a record $875 million fine to settle criminal and civil charges that the company inflated the price of a top-selling prostate cancer drug and used government money to bribe doctors to prescribe it. TAP pleaded guilty to participating in a criminal conspiracy by providing doctors with thousands of free samples for which the doctors billed Medicare and their patients. The samples, worth up to $500 each, were used to induce doctors to prescribe Lupron over a competing drug that was less expensive. In addition, a Boston grand jury has indicted six current or former company employees and a Plymouth physician on new charges that they participated in a kickback scheme. [Dembner A. Drug firm to pay $875M fine for fraud: US alleges bribery, price manipulation. Boston Globe, Oct 4, 2001.]

Doctor not liable for "failing to disclose the existence of a dubious treatment. The California Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court's dismissal of a defendant based on the theory that "informed consent" must include disclosing the existence of "all available treatments." The suit was brought by the parents of Crystin Schiff, who died at age six after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Cristen's parents, who later came to believe that the "antineoplaston" therapy of Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D., could have cured their daughter, sued cancer specialist Michael D. Prados, M.D., and the Regents of the University of California at San Francisco (the governing body of the hospital where Dr. Prados worked). In dismissing Prados from the case, the appeals court agreed that there is no general duty to disclose nonrecommended procedures and ruled that antineoplaston treatment was not "available" in California because neither the FDA nor the California Medical Board had approved it for marketing in the state. [Ric Schiff et al. v. Michael Prados. Calif Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Four, A087171. San Francisco Super Ct. No. 982108, filed Sept 28, 2001] The case against the UCSF Regents was not affected by this ruling.

Malpractice insurance company funding anti-vaccination group. Chiropractic Benefit Services, which offers malpractice insurance coverage to subluxation-based chiropractors, has stated that its premiums are used in part to fund the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), an organization that opposes vaccination. The company indicated this in an ad in the September 2001 issue of The Chiropractic Journal, the newspaper of the World Chiropractic Alliance, a group that strongly opposes to vaccination. The amount of money given to NVIC was not disclosed.

WHCCAMP issues interim report. On September 18, 2001, the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative and Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) issued an interim progress report summarizing testimony gathered from public hearings held throughout the country. WHCCAMP was appointed by President Clinton for the purpose of making recommendations for public education, research, practitioner training, and access to the delivery of "complementary and alternative methods." Many of its members advocate and/or provide highly questionable methods. The report made no recommendations but indicated that the final report, due by March 7, 2002, would contain them.

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This page was posted on October 10, 2001.