Consumer Health Digest #04-41

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 12, 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

IOM issues report to counter childhood obesity. The Institute of Medicine has issued recommendations intended to counter the rise in obesity among American children. Its recommendations include:

The committee did not call for a "junk food tax" or the repeal of agricultural subsidies. However, it did recommend that federal programs such as the Food Stamp Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) support pilot programs to increase participants' access to nutritious foods including fruits and vegetables. The full report, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, can be purchased from the National Academy Press Web site or read free-of-charge online.

Allstate awarded $5.9 million in chiropractic fraud lawsuit. (This article was removed in 2007 because the verdict was overturned on appeal.)

Medicare acts against chiropractic "maintenance care." The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has revised its requirements for chiropractic billing of "active/corrective" treatment and "maintenance" therapy. Under the Medicare program, active therapy is treatment that provides "reasonable expectation of recovery or improvement of function" and maintenance care is "a treatment plan that seeks to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong and enhance the quality of life; or therapy that is performed to maintain or prevent deterioration of a chronic condition." Under Medicare, chiropractic maintenance therapy is not considered medically reasonable or necessary and has never been a covered service. The 2003 Improper Medicare FFS Payments report indicates that chiropractors filed claims incorrectly 30.6% of the time and had the highest compliance error rate among the professions whose services are covered. The new policy was established with the hope that specifying which claims are for active/corrective therapy and which are for maintenance therapy will enable more accurate billing and facilitate the claims review process. The best strategy for patients who undergo chiropractic care for back pain is to stop going when they feel better. However, many chiropractors advise lifetime periodic spinal examinations and adjustments for what they call "preventative maintenance." Because "maintenance care" lacks a plausible rationale and has never been proven beneficial, insurance companies do not knowingly pay for it. The new Medicare regulations are an attempt to make it simpler to identify "maintenance care" so claims for it can be denied automatically. [Barrett S. Medicare chiropractic billing policies revised. Chirobase, Oct 2, 2004]

FDA orders halt to illegal cancer claims. The FDA has ordered the Cellular Wellness Foundation of Santa Maria, California, to stop claiming that its CellularTea™ is effective against cancer and several other major diseases. The company had also claimed that herbs in the product had been "formulated in an FDA approved laboratory under FDA guidelines to ensure a high standard of quality." The warning letter noted that this statement was false because the FDA does not approve laboratories and that the manufacturing process did not meet FDA guidelines. [Baca JR. Warning letter to Cellular Wellness Foundation, Sept 20, 2004] The "Foundation" Web site is no longer online, but an archived version indicates that it also did business as the CancerTea™ Foundation and alleges that the tea is an improved version of Essiac tea.

FDA asks firm to pay damages for violating injunction. The FDA has informed Hillestad Pharmaceuticals, USA, Inc., of Woodruff, Wisconsin, that it has violated a federal court order prohibiting it from claiming that various dietary supplements could prevent, cure, mitigate, or treat diseases. In a warning letter, FDA instructed the firm to stop these illegal practices or face further FDA action, including a possible contempt proceeding for failure to comply with the court order. The letter also directed the firm to pay liquidated damages of $23,000.00, which reflects sales of Opti-Cran, Hi-C Level, Ginkgo Biloba, and St. John's Wort that were made in violation of the court order. In July 2000, following a seizure of about $580,000 worth of products, the company agreed to stop making such drug claims and to destroy all promotional materials containing them. However, an FDA inspection found that the company's monthly newsletters still claimed that various products were effective against infectious diseases, diabetes, depression, impotence, and allergies.<

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