Consumer Health Digest #02-12

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 19, 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 hit from within. Two members of the White House Commission on Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) have spoken out against their fellow Commissioners. Their message accompanied WHCCAMP's final report, which was sent to H.H.S. Secretary Tommy G. Thompson last week. Although the text of these reports will not be released until forwarded to the White House, press reports indicate that Commissioners Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and Joseph J. Fins, MD, FACP, are troubled that the final report:

WHCCAMP was appointed during the closing days of the Clinton Administration to make recommendations "assuring that public policy maximizes the benefits to Americans of complementary and alternative medicine." After evaluating the panel's preliminary and final draft reports, the National Council Against Health Fraud concluded that the Commission had failed in its mission.

American Dental Association blasts anti-amalgamists. Calling amalgam fillings "a valued treatment option," the American Dental Association (ADA) is providing dentists with educational materials that respond to quack attacks. [Palmer C. ADA launches national educational campaign on dental restoratives. ADA News, March 10, 2002] The materials include a chart comparing the attributes of amalgam and various other restorative materials and a sample letter for patients, which states:

Dental amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials and therefore remains a valued treatment option for dentists and their patients. As questions have arisen about its safety related to its mercury content, they have been answered to the satisfaction of the major U.S. and international scientific and health bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, among others.

The principal advantages of amalgam fillings are durability and relatively low cost.

The ADA is also speaking out against class-action suits filed in Maryland and California which claim that patients were harmed by amalgam fillings and that the ADA and state dental associations have engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices as well as fraud and conspiracy to defraud by not informing patients that amalgam fillings contain mercury. As reported in ADA News:

The ADA said that the complaint is part of a "coordinated attempt by some to have judges decide matters of scientific debate, and stifles discussion within the scientific community, most of whose members simply do not agree with their views. The ADA is concerned that any individual suffers a serious medical condition that does not respond to conventional diagnosis or treatment. But these individuals are not helped by those who hold out false hope that removing amalgam fillings is a "cure-all" for various ailments.

There is no sound scientific evidence supporting a link between amalgam fillings and systemic diseases or chronic illness. [Berry J. ADA pledges vigorous defense' against Maryland amalgam suit. ADA News March 4, 2002]

In another news report, the ADA referred to a California suit as ""an egregious abuse of the legal system." [Another amalgam suit filed in California. ADA news release, March 21, 2002]

America's most active anti-amalgamist has been Hal E. Huggins, D.D.S., whose dental license revoked in 1996. During the revocation proceedings, the administrative law judge concluded that Huggins had diagnosed "mercury toxicity" in all patients who consulted him in his office, even some without mercury fillings; and that Huggins's treatments were "a sham, illusory and without scientific basis."

World Skeptics Conference June 20-23. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims for the Paranormal (CSICOP) will host the Fourth World Skeptics Conference in Burbank, California, from Thursday evening June 20 through Sunday noon June 23. The speakers include leading antiquackery activists and skeptics. The health-related sessions include "Medical Claims," "Fringe Psychotherapies," and "Urban Legends." Complete information is available online.

Canada bans sale of Vega devices. Health Canada has suspended the licenses for the Vegasom (License No.13264), Vega Audiocolor (License No. 13267), Vegaselect (License No.13270) and Vegatest Expert (License No. 14736), which prohibits the sale or importation of these devices. Vega devices are frauds that have no diagnostic or therapeutic value. Last year the FDA notified the manufacturer and two distributors that they could not be legally marketed within the United States. However, neither agency appears interested in confiscating the devices now used by practitioners.

Psychologist ordered to stop using sex toys when treating children. The Colorado Licensed Psychologists Examiners Board has issued a stipulation and order temporarily barring John A. Dicke, PhD, JD, from using several disputed practices in treating children. The board's stipulated order bans Dicke from using any kind of sex toys in therapy; permitting clients to undress; using touch therapy or physical restraints; making suggestions or asking certain leading questions; and permitting any parent who has made allegations against another person to attend therapy sessions. The board acted in response to a complaint from a mother that Dicke had encouraged her child to engage in sexualized behavior with a dildo (latex penis) and had inserted the dildo into the child's anus. The order is binding unless the board modifies it after the disciplinary proceeding is completed. Dicke is contesting the board's decision and plans to argue before an Administrative Law Judge that his treatment was appropriate [Jargon J. Playtime is over: The state has barred a child psychologist from using adult sex toys in therapy sessions. Westword, May 14, 2002] Dicke practices attachment therapy and has served as an expert witness in several high-profile criminal cases. The Board's order is posted on Quackwatch.

Fluoridation census update. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that from 1992 through 2000, the portion of the U.S. population receiving optimally fluoridated water rose from 62.1% to 65.8%, bringing the total U.S. population with access to about 162 million. [Populations receiving optimally fluoridated public drinking water—United States 2000, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Feb 22, 2002]

"Miss Cleo" unmasked. Although the "telephone psychic" who calls herself "Miss Cleo" has claimed to be a Jamaican shaman, investigators for the Florida Attorney General have found that her birth certificate indicates that she was born Youree Dell Harris on Aug. 13, 1962, in Los Angeles County Hospital, to parents who were from California and Texas. Florida is one of many states that is suing her marketers for fraud, as is the FTC.

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This page was revised on April 4 2002.