Consumer Health Digest #02-02

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 8, 2002

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.

FTC warns more marketers of bioterrorism defense products. A month after sending out 50 warnings to promoters of purported treatments for anthrax and other bioterrorism agents, the Federal Trade Commission staff has sent 71 more e-mails focusing on promoters of air filters, gas masks, protective clothing, and ultraviolet light mechanisms. Web operators were warned that if their assertions cannot be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence, they must be removed. About half of the previously warned sites have complied. The warnings stem from a coordinated Internet "surf" by the FTC with help from the FDA, more than 30 state attorneys general, and the California Department of Health Services. [FTC broadens warnings to marketers of biodefense products. FTC news release, January 2002] The FTC has also issued a consumer alert [Offers to treat biological threats: What you need to know]

FDA cautions against full-body CT scans. The FDA has expressed concern about clinics that are marketing full-body CT scans promised to provide warnings for cancer, heart disease, and other abnormalities. Agency officials have warned that (a) many people will get false-positive results, leading them to seek additional, possibly risky tests or surgical procedures; and (b) the x-ray dosage from a CT procedure can be hundreds of times greater than that of conventional x-ray procedures. During a CT scan, an x-ray tube housed inside a doughnut-shaped machine rotates around and transmits radiation through a person's body at various angles. Detectors inside the machine measure the radiation transmitted through the body and these data are converted into electrical signals. A computer gathers these signals and produces three-dimensional images that are displayed on a monitor. CT scans can be extremely valuable when used appropriately. But there is not sufficient evidence to justify total body screening for patients with no symptoms or family history suggesting disease. [Lewis C. Full-body CT scans: What You Need to Know. FDA Consumer 35(6):10, 2001]

New journal to examine questionable mental health claims. In March, Prometheus Books will begin publishing Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice , an interdisciplinary journal intended to critique unscientific and invalidated claims. The editor is Scott O. Lillienfled, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Emory University. One year (2 issues) subscriptions are $60 for individuals in the United States and Canada, $70 for individuals overseas, and $100 for institutions. Prometheus also publishes The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal that objectively analyzes the claims of "alternative medicine." Orders can be placed by calling (800) 421-0351.

Quackery device museum closing. The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is closing January 27. Its Director, Robert McCoy, is retiring and has donated the the 325 pieces in his collection to the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul. The museum is also expected to maintain most of the information from the current Web site.

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This page was revised on August 14, 2002.