Consumer Health Digest #01-43
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 22, 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.
AMA warns against unnecessary prescriptions for anthrax. The American Medical Association has cautioned against taking unnecessary doses of antibiotics or overusing them. In a message to physicians, it stated:
- There is no reason for antibiotics to be widely prescribed to prevent anthrax because of the exposures reported so far.
- There is no logical reason to prescribe antibiotics to have on hand in case of a future incident.
- All antibiotics have side effects that are a reasonable risk when measured against the benefit of treating an infectious disease. In the absence of an actual infection, only the risk remains.
- Prescribing unnecessary antibiotics could result in the development of resistant organisms, leading to actual morbidity and mortality.
- Prescribing of antibiotics to have on hand "in case" is not indicated because there is a real risk that symptoms not related to inhalation anthrax will prompt patients to initiate unnecessary treatment.
- Antibiotics for preventing inhalation anthrax during an actual bioterrorism event are stockpiled in several areas in the nation and can be delivered to any airport within 12 hours.
- There is a vaccine to protect against inhalation anthrax that had been used for many years for individuals whose occupations made exposure to anthrax likely, for example veterinarians and wool sorters. More recently it has been used to protect members of military units who might be exposed to the agent if used as a weapon of war. The full protective effect is present after administration repeated at 2 and 4 weeks and at 6, 12 and 18 months. Boosters are then given annually. Research is being done to develop a better vaccine with a simplified schedule.
- Currently, due to the fact that very few sources exist for the production of anthrax vaccine, it is not generally available.
- Gas masks that are commonly available to the general public will not provide significant protection. The quality of war surplus or imported masks varies greatly. The mask must be fitted to a specific individual; accurate fitting requires training. The filters must be inserted carefully and changed periodically. In addition, the mask must be in place and functional at the time of exposure.
- The most important thing physicians can do now is become familiar with the signs and symptoms of inhalation anthrax and other bioterrorism agents and be vigilant in reporting possible cases to their local public health department immediately.
The AMA will provide frequent updates on the situation. Additional information on biologic terrorism is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anthrax-related scams. Fraudulent marketers never seem to miss an opportunity to promote their wares. Public concern about anthrax has inspired many of them to urge people to stock up on antibiotics, particularly Cipro, which is quite expensive. As noted above, the AMA says there is no rational reason to do this. In addition, most anthrax strains are sensitive to penicillin and other antibiotics that are less expensive and have fewer side effects. Some marketers of colloidal silver, fulvic acid, and homeopathic products have also joined the fray with claims that these products are effective in preventing and/or treating anthrax infections.
Podiatrist's license revocation upheld. A California Superior Court judge has dissolved a temporary order staying the license revocation of Garey Lee Weber, DPM, former owner of the Doctor's Foot & Ankle Centers, a group practice with offices in three California cities. Foot doctor loses major battle with California board of podiatric medicine. News release, Oct 22, 2001] Weber obtained the stay in May 2001, after the California Board of Podiatric Medicine revoked his license to practice. Further details of the case are available on Quackwatch.
EPA launches smoke-free home campaign. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched the Smoke-Free Home Pledge Initiative, a program intended to motivate millions of parents to refrain from exposing their children to secondhand smoke from tobacco products. Environmental tobacco smoke has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Smoke Free Home kits are available from Consumer Federation of America.
Chiropractors lobbying to expand access to veterans. The House Veterans Affairs Committee has voted to approve the Disabled Veterans Service Dog and Health Care Improvement Act of 2001 (H.R. 2792), which includes provisions to mandating a new program of chiropractic benefits within the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). The bill would:
- Require a chiropractor to be appointed as director of chiropractic services
- Permit veterans to select a chiropractor as their primary provider
- Include "at a minimum, care for neuro-musculoskeletal conditions"
- Direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide educational materials to other health-care providers to ensure that they are aware of chiropractic care
- Establish an advisory committee to advise on credentialing, and scope of practice, and other matters.
The American Physical Therapy Association and the American Osteopathic Association have been lobbying against the bill. Some subluxation-based chiropractors are upset that the present form of the bill does not refer to "subluxations"and would not prevent other practitioners from offering spinal "adjustments. House Concurrent Resolution 46, which calls for both of these provisions, has received no apparent Congressional support.
FDA approves 30-day contact lens. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Focus Night and Day soft contact lenses, made by CIBA Vision Corporation, for up to 30 nights of continuous wear. The lenses may be left in the eyes while the wearer is both awake and asleep. Not everyone can use them that long, and some people experience adverse effects. Other contact lenses are approved for up to only seven days extended wear. [FDA approves 30-night continuous wear contact lenses. FDA Talk Paper T01-48, Oct 12, 2001]
Rodale Press losing money. Rodale Press, which publishes health and fitness books and magazines, has announced that it will lay off 148 workers (about 13% of its worldwide workforce). The Allentown Morning Call has reported that although the company's reported gross income for 1999 was $500 million, it lost money in both 1999 and 2000 and has not revealed recent sales figures. The article also states that Prevention magazine remained profitable but the company's book division was not. [Shope D. Rodale laying off 13% of work force. The Morning Call, Oct 18, 2001] Rodale's magazines, books, and Web site offer advice on a wide variety of topics but much of the information in unreliable. Prevention had the lowest accuracy score among the 20 magazines rated in the American Council on Science and Health's 1997-1999 survey of nutrition advice in popular magazines.
This page was revised on October 21, 2001.