Consumer Health Digest #02-11
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 12, 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.
WHCCAMP report hijacked. The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) wants the Bush Administration to reject the final report of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP), because the Commission has failed in its mission. Its final report does not appropriately assess "CAM" methods, lacks objectivity, and was principally the opinions of Commission leaders who revised it without most of the members ever seeing the final edition. The report is an unqualified endorsement of so-called "CAM," a New-Age marketing term which falsely proposes that untested and unscientific methods of care are equivalent to evidence-based medical practices. Some members of the Commission have objected to the methods and recommendations and issued a significant dissent, pointing out where the Commission had fallen short. WHCCAMP's public relations agency released a list of "final draft" recommendations more than a week ago. Subsequently, the Commission's leadership took control of the report and rewrote sections in an attempt to stifle dissent from several members. The final report went to the White House without the majority of the commissioners actually seeing the final copy. [White House Commission fails, lacking objectivity; leadership hijacks report; members speak out against recommendations. NCAHF news release, March 13, 2002]
Canadian neurologists warn against chiropractic neck manipulation. Sixty-two clinical neurologists from across Canada, all certified members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, have issued a written warning to the Canadian public and provincial governments about the dangers of neck manipulation [Stewart B and others. Statement of concern to the Canadian public from Canadian neurologists regarding the debilitating and fatal damage manipulation of the neck may cause to the nervous system, February 2002.] The signatories include private neurologists as well as chiefs of neurology departments of major teaching hospitals. Calling their concerns significant, they warn that stroke and death due to neck manipulation has been reported in the scientific literature for over 50 years and that manipulation is one of the leading causes of stroke in the under 45-age group. The neurologists express six basic concerns:
- They first call upon physicians to be more vigilant. All patients presenting with a stroke, especially those less than 45, should be questioned about recent neck manipulation. They advise that physicians need to make an immediate referral to a neurologist for any patient with a history of neck manipulation that is followed by symptoms of stroke.
- They urge the public to recognize that symptoms such as sudden neck pain, visual disturbances and nausea following neck manipulation are not normal. They warn that under no circumstances should an individual allow their necks to be manipulated is any of these symptoms are present.
- They endorse the Inquest Jury recommendations into the death of Laurie Jean Mathiason of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a 20-year-old woman who died following a chiropractic neck manipulation. That Jury recommended that the risk of stroke and other inherent risks associated with chiropractic treatment be visible and available in the reception area of every chiropractic facility.
- They express concern that in a routine autopsy the vertebral arteries in the neck are almost never removed and examined. As it is these arteries that are most often damaged by neck manipulation, they urge close inspection of the vertebral arteries in all suspicious cases. Further, such cases should be referred to the office of the regional coroner.
- They urge all the provincial Ministries of Health to act upon the strong concerns expressed by the Canadian Pediatric Community about neck manipulation in the pediatric age group. They call for immediate banning of all spinal manipulation of infants and children.
- They call for an Inquiry into what they consider to be endless non-scientific claims being made as to the uses of neck manipulation.
California voters attack chiropractic insurance fraud. Proposition 44, which 79.4% of voters approved in the March 5 primary election, requires the Board of Chiropractic Examiners to revoke for ten years the license of a chiropractor who is convicted for a second time, or is convicted of multiple counts in a single case of various specified offenses including insurance fraud. The measure requires the board to investigate any licensed chiropractor who has been criminally charged with committing insurance fraud, if the district attorney does not object to the investigation. The measure also includes as "unprofessional conduct" the hiring of "runners" by chiropractors to procure patients. Its passage was a reaction to the exposure of widespread chiropractic fraud connected with personal injury claims. Voter approval was needed to modify the law because the original chiropractic licensing law was enacted by referendum.
FTC curbs Wonder Bread claims. Interstate Bakeries Corp. (IBC), which markets Wonder Bread, has agreed to stop advertising that its bread, which has calcium added, can help brain function and memory. The proposed settlement would prohibit both IBC and its advertising agency from making unsubstantiated claims that any bread product helps brain function or memory or is effective against any health problem. [Wonder Bread marketers settle FTC charges: Claims that bread with added calcium could help brain function and memory alleged to be unsubstantiated. FTC news release, March 6, 2002]
Homeopaths blamed for measles outbreak. Two homeopathic physicians who oppose the MMR vaccine are being blamed for a measles epidemic in Coberg, Germany. Thirty children have hospitalized been amid fears that deaths may occur if the disease continued to spread. The 30 children have ear, lung and larynx infections brought on by measles. In the United Kingdom, there were 69 cases of measles in January and February compared with 62 in the whole of last year. The majority were in London, where a quarter of parents have refused to give their children MMR vaccination. [Smith L. Homeopaths blamed for measles. Associated Press, March 6, 2002]
Illinois AG attacks anthrax scams. In December 2001, Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan charged two Las Vegas, Nevada, companies with fraud for allegedly deceiving Illinois consumers by marketing products they claim will help detect deadly anthrax bacteria. [Ryan charges two companies with false Internet marketing of products that supposedly detect deadly anthrax bacteria. News release, Dec 15, 2001]
- Gateway Distributors, Ltd. and TRSG Corporation d/b/a The Right Solution was charged with falsely marketing a V-Scan product—a purported ultraviolet light—to detect the presence of anthrax. The $50 product is a cheap-looking flashlight-like device that appears to contain a black light bulb. The company claimed that the device could detect and identify anthrax and a wide variety of other biological agents. However, according to health officials, anthrax and most bacteria and viruses do not glow under ultraviolet light, so the product is useless.
- Jeff Anderson d/b/a Early Detection Services was charged with falsely marketing a nasal swab claiming that it can determine if a person has been exposed to anthrax. The $150 plastic nasal swab unit is supposedly sent to a laboratory for testing after a sample is taken. However, the suit alleges that this kind of testing will not determine if someone has contracted the disease. If the nasal swab tests negative, the individual could still have anthrax in the lungs. Similarly, a positive result does not indicate that the person has the disease, but merely that anthrax spores have been detected in the nose.
Both suits seek permanent injunctions prohibiting their marketing practices in Illinois, in addition to restitution, civil penalties and court costs.
This page was posted on March 13, 2002.