Consumer Health Digest #02-24

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 11, 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.

Scientists blast anti-aging quackery. Prominent anti-aging researchers have issued a position statement that separates fact from fiction related to anti-aging claims. The statement was authored by Drs. S. Jay Olshansky, Leonard Hayflick, and Bruce A. Carnes and endorsed by 48 others. [Olshansky SJ and others. Position Statement on Human Aging, May 13, 2002] It concludes:

Since recorded history individuals have been, and are continuing to be, victimized by promises of extended youth or increased longevity by using unproven methods that allegedly slow, stop or reverse aging. Our language on this matter must be unambiguous: there are no lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, vitamins, antioxidants, hormones or techniques of genetic engineering available today that have been demonstrated to influence the processes of aging. We strongly urge the general public to avoid buying or using products or other interventions from anyone claiming that they will slow, stop or reverse aging. . . . What medical science can tell us is that because aging and death are not programmed into our genes, health and fitness can be enhanced at any age, primarily through the avoidance of behaviors (such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exposure to sun, and obesity) that accelerate the expression of age-related diseases and by the adoption of behaviors (such as exercise and a healthy diet) that take advantage of a physiology that is inherently modifiable.

Bogus "anti-quackbuster" suit withdrawn. A fraudulent lawsuit intended to harass and intimidate critics of Hulda Clark has been withdrawn. The suit, filed in July 2001 by New Century Press (Clark's publishing company), charged Stephen Barrett, M.D., the National Council Against Health Fraud, and about 30 other defendants with committing at least 12 crimes and 20 civil wrongs. The suit was bogus in that none of the accusations were true and the complaint did not identify a single alleged fact that would support any of the suit's allegations. It was filed as a cross-complaint in response to a libel suit Dr. Barrett filed against Clark, New Century Press, and several of her associates. [Barrett S., A response to Tim Bolen. Quackwatch, June 9, 2002] Clark is an unlicensed naturopath with a mail-order "degree" who claims to cure cancer with a low-voltage electrical device [Barrett S. The bizarre claims of Hulda Clark. Quackwatch, Dec 29, 2001] The withdrawal took place in response to motions that would force New Century Press to either disclose a basis for the cross-complaint or admit that there were none.

Largest chiropractic school loses national accreditation. The Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE), which is the national organization that accredits chiropractic schools, has revoked the accreditation status of Life University of Marietta, Georgia, which has about 2,600 chiropractic students. [Brimhall J. Announcement. CCE Web site, June 10, 2002] Life University advocates a "straight" chiropractic approach which holds that spinal malfunction ("subluxations") is the underlying cause of ill health and that spinal adjustments enable the body to heal itself. Although CCE would not reveal the precise basis of its decision, its investigators apparently concluded that Life students were not being taught how to detect and deal with problems that require medical attention. CCE's investigative report noted that "all patient charts reviewed revealed primary diagnoses of subluxation." The Georgia Board of Chiropractic Examiners issued a statement supporting CCE's decision. The revocation will not take effect until final action has been taken on the appeal that Life has stated it will file.

Life is still accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but without CCE accreditation its chiropractic graduates will not be eligible to take licensing exams and the school is unlikely to survive. However, in December 2001, this commission warned Life that it had failed to meet five standards related to academic and professional preparation, financial stability, and overall management, and gave the university six months to respond. [Accreditation actions taken. SACSCOC Web site, Dec 10, 2001]. Among other things, SACSCOC's investigation concluded that that Life's program "lacks depth in the areas of diagnosis and management of patient care beyond the chiropractic analysis and adjustment" and that over 90% of patients who present for treatment in the institution's clinics will have spinal x-rays taken, which is "inconsistent with current practice." [SACSCOC. Report of the Reaffirmation Committee, April 6-11, 2001, pp. 29-30]

Canadian chiropractic education fosters antivaccination beliefs. A study of students at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) has found that negative attitudes toward vaccination increased progressively from year to year.

The authors noted that progressive negative attitudes occurred primarily among students who relied primarily on informal sources (visiting lecturers) rather than "core CMCC lectures." [Busse JW and others. Attitudes toward vaccination: A survey of Canadian chiropractic students. Canadian Medical Association Journal 166:1531-1534, 2002] An accompanying editorial states that the study "suggests that even in the face of education to the contrary (provided by their own professional school) and despite the policies of [the Canadian Chiropractic Association], negative beliefs are still acquired or persist in a sizable minority of students." [Pless B, Hibbs B. Chiropractic students' attitudes about vaccination: A cause for concern? Canadian Medical Association Journal 166:1544-1545, 2002] However, neither the surveyors nor the editorial writers noted how negatively the school's pediatric textbook treats the subject. Its 27-page chapter on immunization is devoted mainly to adverse reactions, contraindications, and "failures," and nothing in the chapter suggests that immunization is a good idea. [Anrig C. Plaugher G., editors. Pediatric Chiropractic. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1998]

MedHunters Magazine profiles Dr. Barrett. MedHunters Magazine has published a 2-page article describing the Internet-related activities of Dr. Stephen Barrett. [Baldwin F. If it quacks like a duck. . . A retired psychiatrist uses the Internet to debunk health-related fads and fallacies. MedHunters Magazine, Summer 2002, pp 48-49]

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