Consumer Health Digest #02-33

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 13, 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.

NIH report advises paying more attention to cancer symptoms. An expert panel has concluded that the pain, depression, and fatigue that accompany cancer are often neglected in the drive to attack the disease. The panel recommended that clinicians and researchers pay more attention to this problem. The report lists about 20 factors that can contribute to effective management of these symptoms. [Patrick DL and others. Symptom management in cancer: Pain, depression and fatigue, NIH state-of-the-science statement, July 15-17, 2002] In January 2001, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations implemented a standard requiring that pain be assessed initially and periodically in all hospitalized patients. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has posted detailed guidelines for managing cancer-related pain and fatigue.

New York's Mayor seeking wider smoking ban. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to amend New York City's antismoking law to include all restaurants and bars. The current law, passed in 1995, forbids smoking in all restaurants with more than 35 seats but excludes stand-alone bars and the bar areas of all restaurants. The proposed amendment would force about 13,000 workplaces to ban smoking entirely. The New York State Restaurant Association recently reversed its longstanding opposition to a similar proposed state law after a survey showed that 76% of its 7,000 members favored more restrictions. California, Delaware and many municipalities ban smoking in nearly every workplace, including bars and restaurants. [Steinhauer J. Bloomberg seeks to ban smoking in every restaurant and bar. New York Times, Aug 9, 2002.

"Psychic astrologist" sued. A lawsuit has been filed against Linda Marks, a "psychic astrologist" who offered "psychic readings" and "astrologic readings" in Delray Beach, Florida. The suit charged that Marks obtained more than a million dollars from people as a part of a "purification" ritual and that the local police department and a former detective had shielded her from criminal prosecution. The publicity surrounding the suit has drawn more than a dozen others to join it. [Lipka M. Growing complaints force new inquiry into Palm Beach County psychic. Palm Beach Sun Sentinel, Aug 10, 2002] Marks and her husband James have also been arrested for insurance fraud in connection with allegedly bilking an insurance company by falsely reporting that a truck was stolen. [Othón NL. Alleged Delray psychic, husband arrested on insurance fraud charges. May 8, 2002] The plaintiffs are represented by Attorney Barry M. Silver, of Boca Raton.

Heart Association issues advisory on fat substitutes. The American Heart Association (AHA) has issued an advisory statement on the possible benefits and pitfalls of incorporating fat substitutes into the American diet. [Wylie-Rosett J. Fat substitutes and health. Circulation 105:2800-2804, 2002] The AHA's Nutrition Advisory Committee has concluded:

Some research suggests that individuals who consume a diet that is reduced in fat and calories and includes use of fat-modified products have a better overall nutrient profile than do individuals who do not use any fat-modified products. The recent increase in the availability of fat substitutes in the market raises questions about the cumulative impact of using fat substitutes in multiple food products and the potential interaction with medications and food ingredients. Within the context of a healthy dietary pattern, fat substitutes, when used judiciously, may provide some flexibility in dietary planning, although additional research is needed to fully determine the longer-term health effects.

"Immune egg" marketers indicted. A federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio, has indicted Marilyn Coleman, Mitchell V. Kaminski, M.D. (Niles, Illinois), and their company OvImmune, Inc., who sold powdered egg yolks as an immune-system booster. The indictment charges that they conspired to commit mail fraud and to distribute an unapproved and misbranded drug with intent to defraud. [Spencer C. Two charged with fraud over powdered yolks. Columbia Dispatch, Aug 1, 2002] In July 2001, the FDA sent a letter warning Coleman that it is illegal to market eggs containing antibodies produced by immunization of chickens with investigational vaccines. The letter objected to claims on that the eggs can replace the immunity lost during AIDS, transplants, burn, and cancer; ameliorate the effects of routine infections; and "potentially treat all known diseases." Raymond Suen, a former OvImmune distributor pleaded has pled guilty on to conspiring to distribute unapproved and misbranded drugs in interstate commerce. Suen who owned operated For Your Health Inc., had advertised the eggs as "magic bullets'' and claimed that they could treat yeast infections, autism, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and AIDS. Coleman maintains that For Your Health ran the Web site and that her attorneys had ordered the company to stop making illegal claims.

Mistletoe preparation found ineffective against bladder cancer. A study of 45 patients with bladder cancer has found that those treated with mistletoe lectin did no better than similar patients who were not. Goebell PJ. Evaluation of an unconventional treatment modality with mistletoe lectin to prevent recurrence of superficial bladder cancer: A randomized phase II trial. Journal of Urology 168:72-65, 2002.

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