Consumer Health Digest #04-16

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 20, 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.

FDA plans to increase enforcement. Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford has announced plans to step up enforcement actions against improperly marketed herbal and dietary supplement products. In a recent talk, he stated that during the past six months, the FDA has inspected 180 domestic dietary supplement manufacturers; sent 119 warning letters to distributors; refused entry to 1,171 foreign shipments of supplements; and seized or supervised voluntary destruction of almost $18 million worth of mislabeled or adulterated products. In March the FDA ask 23 companies to stop distributing dietary supplements containing androstenedione, which are marketed to stimulate testosterone and muscle growth but have anabolic steroid effects in the body. To support its consumer protection actions, the agency is developing approaches to systematically review the evidence about the safety of individual dietary supplements. FDA expects to evaluate the available pharmacology, published literature and adverse event information, the approach that formed the scientific foundation for FDA's recent ephedra ban. FDA's rulemaking on dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids became effective on April 12th, shortly after a federal district court declined to issue a temporary restraining order sought by some sellers. [Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford outlines science-based plan for dietary supplement enforcement. FDA news release, April 19, 2004]

"Zapper" causes dizziness and near-fainting. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that a 52-year-old man with a cardiac pacemaker experienced episodes of dizziness and near-fainting when he used a "Zapper" device. His doctors found that the device caused the pacemaker to malfunction and disturb the patient's heart rhythm. The Zapper is a battery-powered generator that applies a low-level electrical current to the body. Its use is promoted by the writing of Hulda Clark, an unlicensed naturopath who falsely claims it can eliminate cancer, other chronic illnesses, and parasites. The device is sold with a warning about pacemakers, but the patient ignored the warning. [Hazards of an alternative medicine device in a patient with a pacemaker. NEJM 350:1688-1690, 2004] Quackwatch has a detailed report about Clark.

Unlicensed "naturopath" arrested in Colorado. On March 30, detectives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado conducted a search and arrested Brian Edward Patrick O'Connell, for practicing medicine without a license. O'Connell is medical director of Mountain Area Naturopathic Associates, where he reportedly provides naturopathic services. [Police execute a search warrant on a naturopathic clinic in Wheat Ridge. City of Wheat Ridge news release, March 30, 2004] His "Ask the Doctor" Web site (no longer posted but viewable through the Internet Archive) stated that he holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine but did not mention what school he attended. The search was conducted after police received a complaint that two persons had been hospitalized in critical condition immediately after O'Connell treated them. According to a report in the Denver Post one was a 17-year-old girl who underwent ultraviolet blood irradiation, a procedure in which blood removed from the body is irradiated and then put back. [Kanani B. Naturopath arrested after 2 hospitalized. Denver Post, March 31, 2004]

Unlicensed chiropractor arrested in Michigan. Larry M. Lammers of Ida, Michigan has been charged with three counts of unauthorized medical practice. According to news reports, Lammers: (a) received a valid chiropractic license in Florida in 1977 that was nullified in February 1998; (b) had been convicted in Florida of practicing medicine without a license; (c) is facing a similar charge in Kentucky; and (d) improperly practiced medicine in the office of his father (a medical doctor) since September 2003. [Man arrested for treating patients without license. The Independent (Dundee Michigan), April 10, 2004]

Quackwatch top-rated for "CAM" cancer information. Quackwatch was one of two sites given a perfect score by a review team that rated 32 popular Web site that offer information on "complementary and alternative" cancer methods. Based on postings during December 2002 and January 2003, the reviewers concluded that most of the sites issued unsubstantiated recommendations and three sites "had the potential for harming patients." The other top-rated site was Bandolier, a journal that is properly skeptical about "CAM" methods but has little information specific to CAM cancer methods. [Schmidt K, Ernst E. Assessing websites on complementary and alternative medicine for cancer. Annals of Oncology 15:7333-742, 2004

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This page was posted on April 20, 2004.