Consumer Health Digest #01-50

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 11, 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.

Antioxidant vitamins can undermine cholesterol-lowering drug. A three-year, double-blind, controlled study of 160 patients with significant coronary artery disease and low HDL levels found that those who received niacin and simvastatin had fewer heart attacks and a slight regression of coronary lesions, as measured by angiography. However, comparable patients who received just antioxidants (vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and selenium) had no benefit, and patients who received the antioxidants in addition to niacin and simvastatin did worse than those who received niacin and simvastatin alone. The researchers believe that the negative effect resulted from blocking an increase in HDL2 that would have had a cardioprotective effect. [Brown BG and others. Simvastatin and niacin, antioxidant vitamins, or the combination for the prevention of coronary disease. New England Journal of Medicine 345:1583-1592, 2001]. An accompanying editorial noted that "although the study completely refute claims that other combinations of antioxidant treatments are useful in distinct populations, the findings add to the growing body of evidence that certain supple,mental antioxidant regimes have limited benefit in patients with cardiovascular disease." [Freedman JE. Antioxidant versus lipid-altering therapy: Some answers, more questions. New England Journal of Medicine 345:1636-1637, 2001]

Marketer of phony cancer cure (T-Up) sentenced to prison. Allen J. Hoffman has been sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and one year of supervised probation and ordered to pay $222,506 in restitution. Prosecutors said that Hoffman, through his Baltimore-based T-Up Inc., treated more than 3,000 patients with a mixture of aloe vera and cesium chloride. Press reports indicate that he pleaded guilty Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to two felony counts of introducing an unapproved new drug into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud the FDA. [Willis L. Man gets term of 46 months in aloe vera case: Concoction distributed as a treatment for cancer. Baltimore Sun, Dec 1, 2001]

License revocation ordered for "biological" dentist Douglas J. Phillips. The Florida Board of Dentistry has ordered that the dental license of Douglas J. Phillips, D.D.S., of West Palm Beach, Florida, be revoked and that Phillips be assessed $151,181.24 for administrative costs. Phillips has appealed through the court system and obtained a temporary stay, but his appeal is unlikely to be successful. The revocation was based on findings by an Administrative Law Judge that Phillips (a) had furnished substandard care to a patient (a chiropractor); (b) had failed to keep adequate dental records for that patient; and (c) had failed to maintain the required malpractice insurance coverage. The case is significant because the substandard practice included Autonomic Response Testing (ART), a variation of applied kinesiology in which muscle tests are used to diagnose health problems throughout the patient's body. The full text of the judge's report is available on Quackwatch. For additional information, search the State of Florida Web site for Case No. 99-4690.

Psychic scammer receives prison sentence. Gina Evans, 35, of Woodway, Texas, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. The case involved taking about $300,000 from callers nationwide in a psychic hotline scam. Authorities said Evans, who went by at least seven aliases, had offered psychic and spiritual advice in advertisements in several national publications, including the National Enquirer, New Woman, and Cosmopolitan magazines. The indictment charged that she would charge callers a one-time fee of several hundred dollars but would later convince callers to send additional money or property so she could cleanse it of "evil" from the person's life. Evans was also ordered to pay more than $330,000 in restitution. [Anderson M. Woodway woman sentenced to 21/2 years prison in psychic scam, Waco (TX) Tribune-Herald, Dec 5, 2001]

Garlic may interfere with HIV treatment. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that garlic supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of saquinavir (Fortobase), a drug used to treat HIV infections. The study found that the supplements reduced blood levels of the drug by approximately half. [Piscitelli SC and others. The effect of garlic supplements on the pharmacokinetics of saquinavir. Clinical Infectious Diseases 34: 2002]

Aetna U.S. Health Care won't cover EMDR therapy. Aetna U.S. Healthcare has decided not to cover eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychiatric and behavioral disorders including phobias, eating disorders, and panic and anxiety disorders because its effectiveness has not been established. [Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc Coverage Policy Bulletin 0583, Nov 16, 2001] EMDR combines various therapeutic approaches with eye movements or other forms of rhythmical stimulation (e.g., sound and touch) in ways that stimulate the brain's information processing system. A recent review concluded that (a) the effects of EMDR are largely limited to verbal report indices, (b) eye movements and other movements appear to be unnecessary, and (c) reported effects are consistent with nonspecific treatment features. [Lohr JM and others. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: An analysis of specific versus nonspecific treatment factors. Journal of Anxiety Disorders 13:185-207, 1999]

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This page was posted on December 10, 2001.