Consumer Health Digest #04-04

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 27, 2004

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.

"King of Calcium" dethroned. Robert E. Barefoot, whose infomercials promoting coral calcium flooded cable television channels in 2002 and 2003, has agreed to a stipulated permanent injunction under which he, Deonna Enterprises, Inc., and Karbo Enterprises, Inc., are:

The court order also permits the FTC to recover all royalties owed to Barefoot in connection with the Coral Calcium Supreme infomercial marketing. [Marketers of coral calcium product are prohibited from making disease treatment and cure claims in advertising. FTC news release, Jan 22, 2004] Quackwatch has extensive background information about Barefoot's activities. Kevin Trudeau, who sponsored and hosted the infomercials, is still facing FTC action.

Major acupuncture claim challenged. A large well-designed study has found no evidence that acupuncture is effective against postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). [Streitberger K and others. Acupuncture compared to placebo-acupuncture for postoperative nausea and vomiting prophylaxis: A randomised placebo-controlled patient and observer blind trial. Anesthesia 59:142-149, 2004] The study involved 220 women who underwent breast or gynecologic surgery. Half received acupuncture at the acupuncture point "Pericardium 6" on the inside of the forearm. The other half underwent "sham acupuncture" at a different point at which the needle was imperceptibly retracted just after it touched the patient's skin. No significant difference in PONV or antivomiting medication use was found between the two groups or between the people who received treatment before anesthesia was induced and those who received it while anesthetized. A subgroup analysis found that vomiting was "significantly reduced" among the acupuncture patients, but the authors correctly noted that this finding might be due to studying multiple outcomes. (As the number of different outcome measures increases, so do the odds that a "statistically significant" finding will be spurious.) Acupuncture has not been proven effective against the course of any disease. This study is important because PONV reduction is one of the few alleged benefits of acupuncture supported by reports in scientific journals. However, the other positive studies were not as tightly controlled. The sham acupuncture technique was developed at the University of Heidelberg. [Streitberger K, Kleinhenz J. Introducing a placebo needle into acupuncture research. Lancet 352:364-365, 1998]

FDA cautions against keepsake ultrasound. The FDA has expressed concern that "facilities with captivating names such as Fetal Fotos, Peek-a-Boo, Womb with a View, and Baby Insight are popping up in strip malls and shopping centers" to offer "keepsake videos" that use the ultrasound technology to produce high-resolution three-dimensional and moving images showing the surface anatomy of babies developing in the womb. As noted in FDA Consumer:

ACSH rates nutrition coverage in popular magazines. The American Council on Health's ninth survey of nutrition coverage by popular magazines, which covered 20 magazines published in 2000, 2001, and 2002, gave the following ratings:

ACSH nutrition director Ruth Kava, Ph.D., cautioned that, "Even magazines that scored well overall had some articles of questionable quality. Readers shouldn't make large dietary changes based on only one magazine article." The full report, Nutrition Accuracy in Popular Magazines (January 2000-December 2002), can be downloaded free of charge or ordered for $5 from the American Council on Science and Health, 1995 Broadway, New York, NY 10023.

Prosecutions of cancer fakers. Three cases have come to light of people who used false cancer claims to solicit donations:

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This page was revised on January 29, 2004.