Consumer Health Digest #03-23

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 10, 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.

Very bad news for coral calcium sellers. Multiple regulatory actions and the discovery of lead in Bob Barefoot's Coral Calcium Supreme should have a powerful effect on coral calcium marketing:

Coral calcium has been extensively promoted by infomercials produced by Trudeau in which Barefoot falsely represents that it can cure cancer, even in terminal cases. The claims have been so outrageous that the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a trade association) has denounced them as fraudulent and asked the FDA to take action. Quackwatch and, have published extensive investigatory reports.

Spinal manipulation judged less effective than previously thought. An expert panel that compared spinal manipulation to various other methods of treating back pain has concluded:

Thirty-nine [randomized controlled trials] were identified. . . . For patients with acute low back pain, spinal manipulative therapy was superior only to sham therapy . . . or therapies judged to be ineffective or even harmful. Spinal manipulative therapy had no statistically or clinically significant advantage over general practitioner care, analgesics, physical therapy, exercises, or back school. Results for patients with chronic low back pain were similar. Radiation of pain, study quality, profession of manipulator, and use of manipulation alone or in combination with other therapies did not affect these results. . . .

There is no evidence that spinal manipulative therapy is superior to other standard treatments for patients with acute or chronic low back pain. [Assendelft WJJ and others. Spinal manipulative therapy for low back pain: A meta-analysis of effectiveness relative to other therapies. Annals of Internal Medical 138:871-881, 2003]

Commenting on the study, the Annals of Internal Medicine editors stated that "while some patients with low back pain may prefer spinal manipulation to traditional therapies, there is no evidence that it achieves better outcomes than standard treatments."

The study may severely damage chiropractic's credibility at a time when managed-care programs are demanding evidence of cost-effectiveness and state governments are looking for ways to decrease their health-care costs. The study is especially significant because one of the authors is Paul Shekelle, M.D., Ph.D., who chaired the RAND panel whose favorable 1991 report was a publicity bonanza for the chiropractic profession. About 40% of the studies the 2003 report considered (including the three best-designed studies) were published after the RAND report was issued.

Although the new report is extremely well reasoned, the American Chiropractic Association has called it a "narrow evaluation of of the available research" and the International Chiropractic Association has called for a Congressional investigation to determine whether the report is part of an illegal conspiracy (which it is not).

Two more genetic test scams debunked. Quackwatch has criticized two more companies that combine genetic testing with unsubstantiated advice that includes dietary supplements, Seryx's Signature Genetics™ is claimed to provide "detailed, individualized, practical recommendations on nutrition, lifestyle, and medications." claims that its Imagene™ testing can detect genetic predisposition towards "Reward Deficiency Syndrome," a medically unrecognized condition that the company claims relates alcoholism, drug dependency, obesity, smoking, pathological gambling, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, sex addiction, autism, chronic violence, posttraumatic stress disorder, antisocial behavior, and other behaviors that it regards as compulsive. In January, Quackwatch criticized systems marketed by Sciona, Genovations, and NuGenix. Although genetic testing and counseling have many valid uses, systems that have not been proven to improve health outcomes should be regarded as a waste of money. [Barrett S, Hall H. Dubious genetic testing. Quackwatch, June 4, 2003]

Canada issues oxygen scam warning. Health Canada has posted information on the valid and invalid used of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). The recognized uses include decompression sickness; air or gas embolism; carbon monoxide poisoning; smoke inhalation; gas gangrene; injury where the body is crushed; burn; acute ischemia (sudden loss of blood); radiation tissue or organ damage; severe anemia; and certain severe or chronic infections. Health Canada has not licensed hyperbaric chambers for treating other conditions and advises consumers to be skeptical of claims to treat multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, cancer, AIDS, stroke, migraine headaches, or other ailments not on its recognized list. [Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Health Canada, Nov 20, 2002]

New chiropractic news digest. Quackwatch and NCAHF are co-sponsoring a free weekly digest of chiropractic news and views that will be posted to Chirobase. E-mail distribution will be made if enough people request it by writing to

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This page was posted on June 10, 2003.