Consumer Health Digest #05-10

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 8, 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.

Prince Charles issues misguided “CAM” report. The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health has issued a 56-page patient guide to provide "enough information to help you choose a complementary therapy that is right for you and find a properly trained and qualified practitioner." [Pinder M. and others. Complementary Health Care: A Guide for Patients. London: Prince of Wales Foundation for Integrated Health, Feb 14, 2005] The booklet includes general advice about dealing with practitioners plus specific information about the nature and regulation of acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, healing (therapeutic touch), herbal medicine, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, naturopathy, nutritional therapy, osteopathy, reflexology, reiki, shiatsu, and yoga therapy. The information about regulation could be very useful to journalists who wish to explore how the British health-care marketplace is organized. However, the report has little or no practical value for patients because:

The report was subsidized by the British Department of Health, the Scottish Executive, and the Welsh Assembly. The booklet can be purchased online or downloaded free of charge from the Foundation's Web site. In December the Health Department awarded a £900,000 grant to the Foundation to develop and implement regulation of "complementary therapies." The Foundation has indicated that it hopes to see laws passed to regulate acupuncture and "herbal medicine" and progress in voluntary self-regulation of other "complementary" professions. [The Department of Health grants The Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health £900,000 to help set standards in complementary healthcare. Foundation press release, Dec 22, 2004]

Article about supplements boosting brain function retracted. A 2001 article in the journal Nutrition which claimed that vitamin and mineral supplementation had improved the mental function of elderly patients has been retracted by the journal's editor. The 2001 article was written by Ranjit K. Chandra, M.D., a prominent immunology researcher who retired after 30 years of work at Newfoundland Memorial Hospital and now lives in India and Switzerland. The study was a randomized, blind, placebo-controlled trial which supposedly showed that a specific multivitamin/mineral supplement could improve short-term memory, abstract thinking, problem-solving ability, and attention span in people over 65 years of age. Professor Chandra, who was the sole author, concluded that the supplement might delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. [Chandra RK. Effect of vitamin and trace mineral supplementation on cognitive function in elderly subjects. Nutrition 17:709–712, 2001] The retraction occurred because Chandra failed to adequately respond to criticisms about statistical errors and discrepancies in his report and would not provide information that would enable other scientists to replicate his study. One statistician who reviewed the 2001 report concluded that the data had "all the hallmarks of being entirely invented." The retraction also noted that Chandra had failed to disclose that he had patented the tested formula and had licensed it to Javaan corporation, a company founded by his daughter, which sells it by mail order in the United States. Chandra is now the company's president. [Meguid MM. Retraction. Nutrition 21:286, 2005]

Suit targets prominent chiropractic "practice-builders." Heidi Brown and her 17-year-old son Trevor Rhiner of Urbandale, Iowa, are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit against a chiropractic practice-building company, its leaders, and chiropractors who follow its teachings. [Brown vs Dr. Paul Kerkhoff et al. First Amended petition and national class action. Iowa District Court for Dallas County, No, LACV032346, filed Feb 22, 2005] The class-action petition arose in connection with a suit against Paul Kerkhoff, D.C., who allegedly told Brown that Trevor had a serious case of scoliosis and that without intense and immediate treatment, the boy would develop arthritis in his early twenties and would be unable to continue to play sports. After a year of treatment, the mother consulted an orthopedist who said that Trevor did not have scoliosis and did not need the recommended treatment. After filing suit for malpractice and negligent misrepresentation, Brown's attorney discovered that Kerkhoff was a client of The Masters Circle, a practice-building firm that teaches how to use scare tactics to create long-term patients. The petition asks the court to set up a class consisting of all patients who have had at least 12 sessions of treatment by a Masters Circle member. The Masters Circle was founded by Larry Markson, D.C., and two other chiropractors. Markson previously did business as Markson Management Associates, which he formed in 1980. The Masters Circle Web site states that he has coached more than 10,000 chiropractors.

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This page was posted on March 8, 2005.