Consumer Health Digest #03-08

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 25, 2003

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.

Cross-border task force shuts down Zoetron cancer scam. In response to a complaint by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has prohibited CSCT Ltd., CSCT, Inc., and its officers (John Leslie Armstrong and Michael John Reynolds) from continuing to claim that Zoetron therapy (also called Cell Specific Cancer Therapy) is effective against cancer. The judge also froze the defendants' assets and ordered their Web site to be shut down. [FTC, Canada, and Mexico officials crack down on foreign companies that offer bogus cancer treatment. FTC news release, Feb 20, 2003] The Zoetron device emits a weak pulsed magnetic field. Its promoters falsely claim that cancer cells accumulate iron and that the device vibrates these cells, causing them to overheat and die. The defendants maintained offices in Canada and England but provided the treatment in Mexico. FTC documents describe how staff members at the Mexican clinic would lie to patients who questioned whether they were getting better. The FTC's action was coordinated with law-enforcement agencies in Canada and in Mexico, where the Ministry of Health forced the clinic to shut down. In 1994, the three countries established a health fraud work group to strengthen their ability to combat frauds that operate from one country to target consumers in another country. Quackwatch has additional information.

IOM "CAM" committee appointments criticized. Antiquackery activists have expressed concerns about a committee the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is forming to identify major scientific and policy issues in "complementary and alternative medicine" ("CAM") research, regulation, training, credentialing and "integration with conventional medicine." At least half of the 15 proposed members have a direct or indirect economic interest in the project's outcome, and several of these have actively promoted quack methods. Among those who appear qualified to make scientific judgments, none appears to have detailed knowledge of "CAM" activities. Quackwatch has posted a detailed analysis of the situation.

Study debunks alleged antiperspirant/cancer link. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle have found no link between breast cancer and regular use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants. Their study, which was done in response to widely circulating rumors, compared 813 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 793 women who had not. [Mirick DK and others. Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 94:1578-1580, 2002]

FTC warns about bogus drug discount plans. The FTC has warned consumers about fraudulent telemarketers who offer medical discount plans and then bill their accounts for hundreds of dollars whether or not the consumer wants the plan. The plan is claimed to generate savings on prescription drugs and dental, vision, hearing, chiropractic, and nursing services. Callers pretend to be affiliated with the consumer's insurance company, financial institution, or state government and ask the consumer to "confirm" a credit card or checking account number. If this is disclosed, the promoters place an unauthorized charge or debit on the account. The FTC advises against giving personal financial information to unknown recipients by phone through the Internet. Such information can also be used to commit identity theft and other types of fraud. If tricked by a telemarketer into revealing your credit card or bank account numbers, call your bank or credit card issuer immediately to block any unauthorized charges. [Bogus discount medical plans: A bitter pill, FTC consumer alert, Feb 2003]

Another negative chelation report. A six-month, randomized, double-blind study found no difference in blood flow to the arm among patients who received standard medical treatment and similar patients who received standard medical treatment plus chelation therapy. The researchers used ultrasound to make before-and-after measurements of the diameter of a main artery to the arm (brachial artery) of 47 patients. [Anderson TJ and others. Effect of chelation therapy on endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease: PATCH substudy. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 41:420-425, 2003] Chelation therapy involves the intravenous infusions of EDTA and other substances that are falsely claimed to be effective against cardiovascular disease and many other conditions. The study was done to test claims that chelation was effective against peripheral artery disease. Despite several negative studies and lack of a scientifically plausible rationale, the National Center for Complementary Medicine has awarded a $30 million grant for another clinical trial.

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This page was posted on February 25, 2003.