Consumer Health Digest #05-18

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 3, 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.

Experts alarmed by WHO homeopathy report draft. Several knowledgeable critics who have seen leaked copies of a preliminary World Health Organization report on homeopathy have labeled it "overoptimistic," "misleading," "factually wrong" and "highly problematic." The report, written by WHO's Coordinator of Traditional Medicine, Dr. Xiaro Zhang, was distributed last Fall with instructions against distributing it to anyone outside of the restricted audience to whom it was sent. The report:

The critics who have expressed concern include: Cees N.M. Renckens, chairman of the Dutch Union against Quackery; Willem Betz and Tom Schoepen of the Belgian Study Group on the Critical Evaluation of the Pseudo-science and the Paranormal (SKEPP); Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, Exeter University; and Klaus Linde, who co-authored a 1997 meta-analysis that is widely misinterpreted by homeopathy proponents as evidence that homeopathy works. Linde's opposition is especially significant because the WHO report relies heavily on his writings but misinterprets them.

Acupuncture no better than sham acupuncture for migraine. A well-designed study of patients with migraine headaches has found that acupuncture was no more effective than sham acupuncture in reducing migraine headaches, although both interventions were more effective than a waiting list control. The study involved 302 patients who had 12 sessions each over a 12-week period. Before the study began, the patients had from 2 to 8 episodes per week. During the 9th to 12th week after the treatment, the reduction was 51% in the acupuncture group, 53% in the sham acupuncture group, and 15% in the waiting list group. The researchers speculate that the improvements may have been due to due to nonspecific physiological effects of needling, a powerful placebo effect, or a combination of both. [Linde K and others. Acupuncture for patients with migraine: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 293:2118-2125, 2005]

Literature review questions whether milk thistle works against liver disease. A review of 13 randomized, controlled clinical trials totaling 915 liver-disease patients who were treated with milk thistle or its extract has concluded that most of the studies were not well designed and that the best ones found no beneficial effect. The review team concluded: "Our results question the beneficial effects of milk thistle for . . . alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C . . . and highlight the lack of high-quality evidence to support this intervention. Adequately conducted and reported randomized clinical trials on milk thistle versus placebo are needed." [Rambaldi A and others. Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 2]

Wisconsin board revokes license of air abrasion dentist. In July 2004, the Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board revoked the license of Lee R. Krahenbuhl, D.D.S., who owns and operates the Advanced Care Smile Centers in Appleton and Oshkosh. The board ordered the revocation in July 2004 after concluding that Krahenbuhl had falsely diagnosed 13 cavities in a patient and proposed to charge $1,500 for unnecessary repairs. Case records indicate that the patient became suspicious and consulted three other dentists, each of whom said he had no cavities and needed no dental work. This was the third time that the Board disciplined Krahenbuhl for misrepresentation. In 1993, his license was suspended for 30 days based on a criminal conviction for Medicaid fraud. In 2002, he was disciplined in connection with faulty root canal treatment and misrepresenting that an x-ray film was the patient's post-treatment film. In that case, the Board suspended his license for six months, ordered a $5,000 fine, banned him from doing more root-canal work, and required his practice to be monitored by another dentist for a minimum of two years. In April 2005, a Winnebago County Circuit Judge upheld the Board's 2004 revocation order. Krahenbuhl plans to appeal to a higher court. Various reports indicate that Krahenbuhl was combining air abrasion with the use of a disclosing dye to detect tooth decay. Air abrasion uses a fine-tipped instrument to blast air and aluminum oxide particles that rapidly abrade the tissues to which it is directed. Disclosing dyes can help dentists judge how deep to drill or scoop out decayed areas when preparing teeth for fillings, but they are not reliable for determining whether or not a repair is needed. That requires the use of a probe to detect areas of softness. Dental Watch has additional information about Krahenbuhl.

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This page was posted on May 3, 2005.