Consumer Health Digest #05-02

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 11, 2005

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.

IOM issues irresponsible "CAM" report. The Institute of Medicine has published a 350-page report assembled by a committee dominated by advocates of "complementary and alternative medicine." The report, which was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, makes broad, sweeping generalizations and attempts to set an agenda for widespread adoption of "CAM" research and teaching. The IOM committee recommends amending the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act to enable greater public protection against misleading claims made for dietary supplements, but nearly all of its other recommendations are poorly reasoned. If the committee's research recommendations are carried out, the biggest winner is likely to be the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which funded the report and helped ensure that its conclusions were precisely what it wanted. [Barrett S. Institute of Medicine issues irresponsible "CAM" report. Quackwatch Jan 11, 2005]

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs Project online. Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has launched an educational and outreach initiative and free Web site, that will compare prescription drugs on price, effectiveness, and safety of widely used drugs. The site will eventually compare approximately 20 drug categories and, when justified by the evidence, will choose a Best Buy Drug in each category. The first three reports compare cholesterol-lowering medications; heartburn and acid reflux treatments; and anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used to treat arthritis.

Illegal Botulinum toxin suppliers curbed. A federal judge has ordered two Florida naturopaths and their affiliated companies in Arizona to stop marketing an unapproved drug that is thought to have paralyzed four people. [United States obtains entry of temporary restraining order to stop the sale of fake, unapproved, and dangerous wrinkle treatments. DOJ news release, Dec 27, 2004] The judge's order applies to Chad Livdahl, N.D., Zarah Karim, N.D., Toxin Research International (TRI), Inc., Powderz, Inc., The Cosmetic Pharmacy, Inc., and Z Spa, Inc. In November 2004, FDA officials began investigating Advanced Integrated Medical Center, Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after an unlicensed osteopath (Bach McComb) and three others whom he injected were hospitalized with symptoms of botulism, a muscle-paralyzing disease. Investigators found that the drug used at the clinic was far more potent than BOTOX® COSMETIC, which the FDA approves for the treatment of wrinkles. [Court: Doctors, firm can't sell Botox knockoff: Use of the unapproved toxin is thought to have left four people paralyzed after they were injected at a South Florida clinic. St. Petersburg Times, Dec 28, 2004] Government documents allege that Livdahl and Karin not only violated federal drug laws, but also pretended that the drug they distributed was "for research purposes only." According to the Palm Beach Post, McComb's license was suspended in 2003 after five of his patients in the Sarasota area died of overdoses from prescriptions he wrote for OxyContin. [Pacenti J. Doctor lost right to practice in 3 states: The head of a clinic tied to botulism had a Fla. license despite problems elsewhere. Palm Beach (Florida) Post, Dec 23, 2004] A follow-up report noted that TRI had paid less than $10 a vial for toxin from List Biological Laboratories of Campbell, Calif., in May 2003 and that Livdahl then sold the toxin for $1,000 to $1,250 per vial to practicing doctors and pharmacies. [Pacenti J, Doherty J. Judge shuts down toxin vendor, orders recall. Palm Beach Post, Jan 11, 2005]

Unlicensed naturopath raided. The Providence Journal has reported that the office of John E. Curran in Providence, Rhode Island was raided by FDA and IRS agents who seized equipment and dietary supplement products. The raid was apparently triggered by a complaint from a state medical board official who was concerned that Curran was practicing medicine without a license [Freyer FJ. Federal agents raid 'natural healing' office. Providence Journal, Jan 8, 2005] Curran's Web site states that he has a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree from the American Institute of Natural Healing; a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (NMD) degree from the Southern College of Naturopathic Medicine; Doctor of Medicine (Alternative Medicine) (ND, AM) from the Southern Graduate Institute; and a Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the St. Luke School of Medicine. The site also claims that he is "certified" by Brown University Medical School, Duke University Medical School, and Harvard University Medical School. However: (a) none of his "degrees" come from accredited institutions; (b) medical schools do not "certify" people; and (c) none of his credentials provide a legal basis to treat patients. One of his diagnostic programs was a "Complete Body Assessment" that cost $950 and included "an in-depth consultation regarding your health history and nutritional diet, BioMeridian Stress Assessment, Food testing (250 foods), Iridology, Chinese Tongue and Nail Analysis, Urinalysis, Blood Oxygen Level Testing, Heart and Lung evaluations, and a Full Body Thermography Scan." His "treatment" offerings included the use of several quack devices.

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This page was revised on January 12, 2005.