Consumer Health Digest #03-12
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 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.
New England Journal blasts growth-hormone frauds. The New England Journal of Medicine has taken the unprecedented step of denouncing misuse of an scientific report it published in 1990 about growth hormone. [Drazen JM. Inappropriate advertising of dietary supplements. New England Journal of Medicine 348:777-778, 2003] Noting that many marketers are misrepresenting the article's significance, the editor has posted it along with warnings that
- Although the findings of the 1990 study were biologically interesting, the duration of treatment was so short that side effects were unlikely to have emerged, and it was clear that the results were not sufficient to serve as a basis for treatment recommendations
- Growth-hormone injections have not proven safe.
- Studies that have followed the 1990 report by Rudman et al. confirm the effects of growth hormone on body composition but do not show improvement in function.
- Amino acid pills marketed as so-called "growth hormone releasers" can't work because they are digested.
Quackwatch tarnishes Seasilver. Quackwatch has written a lengthy investigative report debunking the promotion of Seasilver, a liquid herb and nutrient product marketed by Seasilver Inc., of Carlsbad, California. According to the company, the product will "balance your body chemistry," "cleanse your vital organs," "purify your blood and lymphatic system," "oxygenate your body's cells," "protect your tissues and cells against challenges" and "strengthen your immune system." The company's Web site contains more than 30 testimonials from people who claim that the product helped them with several types of cancer and various other diseases. The site fails to mention that the company's medical advisory board co-chairman, Daniel G. Clark, M.D., had his medical license revoked in 1983 for for inappropriately treating two cancer patients with "metabolic therapy." [Barrett S. Misleading claims for Seasilver. Quackwatch, March 20, 2003]
Homeopath marketing smallpox vaccine "equivalent." Bill Gray, M.D., a homeopathic leader, is peddling a bogus homeopathic product which he claims offers protection that is "approximately equivalent" to that of smallpox vaccine. His Smallpox Information Central Web site claims to provide "the most complete and updated information available on smallpox, its pathology, its weaponization, its treatment, and its nontoxic prevention." Gray claims that his product, "Nontoxic Smallpox Shield," is "virtually 100% effective despite direct exposure" and "has been proven in smallpox epidemics throughout the world spanning over a century -- when smallpox was in its heyday." The product is said to have been "originally from Variolinum, which is extracted through extreme dilution from smallpox pustule." FDA regulations state that homeopathic products offered for use only in "self-limiting conditions recognizable by consumers" may be marketed without a prescription. The price is $19.95 for a single-dose vial and $24.95 for a 3-dose vial, plus shipping and handling. Possibly to get around the law, Gray adds a "digital prescription fee" of $30, which can cover up to four individuals in a family. However, because all drugs marketed as must be "generally recognized by experts" as safe and effective for their intended purpose, Gray's claims appear to be illegal in addition to being preposterous.
License revocation of "alternative" practitioner upheld. The Tennessee Court of Appeals has upheld the decision of the Tennessee Board of Medicine to revoke the license of James E. Johnson, M.D., of Nashville, Tennessee. Court documents indicate that a patient had required surgery for a baseball-size abscess after Johnson treated her with garlic, intravenous hydrogen peroxide infusions, and high-dose vitamin C injections for what he misdiagnosed as a widespread yeast infection. Johnson was also assessed a penalty of $11,000. The case is important because it affirms the principle that regardless of how they label themselves, all physicians are obligated to meet appropriate standards of care. The full text of the Appeals Court decision has been posted to Quackwatch.
This page was revised on March 26 2003.