Consumer Health Digest #02-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 21, 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.

AMA exposes tobacco's dirty political strategy. The American Medical Association has warned that the tobacco industry's top legislative goal is preemptive legislation that blocks local communities from protecting their citizens. Its downloadable 22-page report states that over the past 20 years, the industry has achieved some form of preemption in about 20 states, gutting dozens of local tobacco control laws and preventing hundreds more from passing. The report describes the industry's lobbying strategies and tell how to combat them. [Grande D, Houston T. Preemption: Taking the Local Out of Tobacco Control. American Medical Association, 2002]

Jury rules against EMF/brain tumor connection. A Maryland jury has ruled against two men who claimed that their exposure to an electromagnetic device that erased computer audiotapes had caused them to develop brain tumors. The plaintiffs claimed that the manufacturer had failed to warn that danger existed. The defense countered that the claim was "junk science" and that the occurrence of a few brain tumors was not unusual because more than 30,000 workers had used the devices. Two other cases are pending in federal courts. [Fisk M. Audiotape eraser didn't cause injuries: Plaintiffs attributed brain abnormalities to demagnetizer. National Law Journal, May 13, 2002] An American Council on Science and Health commentator has noted that electromagnetic fields may continue to be "a scapegoat for some of life's randomly-distributed tragedies." [Seavey T. EMF: Electric and magnetic fears, HealthFactsandFears Web site, May 17, 2002]

Anti-amalgam attorney sued for libel. The American Dental Association has filed suit against Shawn Khorrami, charging that he targeted the ADA with an orchestrated "campaign of lies and distortion" to promote himself and his law firm. [American Dental Association sues Los Angeles lawyer for defamation; cites smear campaign as attempt to promote himself and firm. ADA news release, May 2002] The complaint seeks compensatory damages for harm suffered by the ADA and punitive damages to deter further wrongful conduct against the ADA. The suit papers state:

PC-SPES found to contain two more drugs. Samples of PC-SPES manufactured between 1996 and 1999 have been found to contain indomethacin (an arthritis drug) and diethylstilbestrol (DES), a potent source of estrogen), as well as warfarin (an anticoagulant). Robert A. Nagourney, M.D., who detected the drugs, has stated that DES was the original medical treatment for prostate cancer and was very effective, but it was stopped because it was associated with deep vein thrombosis (blockage by blood clots). The presence of DES might explain why some studies have found PC-SPES beneficial against prostate cancer. [Prostate cancer supplement contained drugs. Reuters Health, April 10, 2002] In February, the manufacturer voluntarily recalled its PC-SPES after the California Department of Health found that it contained warfarin. [State health director warns consumers about prescription drugs in herbal products. News release, Feb 7, 2002]

Dealing with unwanted telemarketers. Recent surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and New Jersey have found that the vast majority regard unsolicited sales calls intrusive and annoying and want "do-not-call" lists established in their states. About twenty states have passed such laws and the Federal Trade Commission is considering creation of a national list. AARP's Missouri survey asked whether the state law should be expanded to cover calls that are now exempt. The majority of respondents said yes. The biggest nuisances are the telephone companies themselves. Steve Rubenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle has suggested that unwanted solicitations could be discouraged by saying "Hold on, please," gently setting the receiver on the table, and going about your business. [Rubenstein S. Three little magic words. San Francisco Chronicle. Feb 11, 2002] Perhaps the effect could be enhanced by expressing interest before doing this.

Pa. Attorney General sues anthrax test marketer. The Pennsylvania Attorney General has filed a civil lawsuit to stop Toxicology Associates Inc., of Columbus, Ohio from marketing its $65 at-home anthrax test kit to Pennsylvanians and to obtain full refunds for purchasers. The test involved using a nasal swab that is returned to the company for testing. The lawsuit states that this kind of testing will not determine whether someone has contracted the disease because (a) if the nasal swab tests negative, the individual could still have anthrax in the lungs; and (b) a positive result does not indicate that the person has the disease, but merely that anthrax spores have been detected in the nose. [AG Fisher sues Ohio-based lab over sale of at-home anthrax test kit. News release, May 1, 2002] The Ohio Attorney General has filed similar suits against two other companies [Ryan charges two companies with false Internet marketing of products that supposedly detect deadly anthrax bacteria]

Seniors want protection against unsafe and misrepresented supplements. A Roper survey of 1,480 persons age 50 has found that about 75% of the respondents wanted the government to (a) review safety data and approve dietary supplements and herbs prior to sale and (b) verify all health-related claims before they can be included in advertisements and on product labels. [Eskin SB. Dietary supplements and older consumers. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, Dec 2001]

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This page was posted on May 21, 2002.