Consumer Health Digest #05-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 28, 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.

Aetna countersues bogus device promoters. Aetna has filed suit against a device manufacturer who filed a bogus lawsuit accusing Aetna of improperly classifying the Cavitat device as "investigational and experimental." Aetna's Clinical Policy Bulletins (CPBs), which cover hundreds of topics, provide the basis for its claims determinations to members and providers of many health benefit plans. In 2002, Aetna issued a CPB which explained why it would not cover diagnostic or treatment procedures related to use of the device. [Aetna CPB0642. Neuralgia inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO) and Cavitat ultrasonography, reviewed Nov 2, 2004] The original suit was filed in 2004 by Cavitat Medical Technologies and its president Robert J. Jones., who accused Aetna of publication of injurious falsehoods, unlawful restraint of trade, and racketeering. However, Aetna had done none of these things, and the plaintiffs did not allege a single instance of illegal conduct to support their false charges. The racketeering charge and nearly all of the others have been dismissed, but Aetna has not let the matter drop. The countersuit states:

Aetna is seeking recovery of its legal costs plus punitive damages that could amount to millions of dollars. [Counterclaim, Cavitat Medical Technologies and Robert J. Jones v. Aetna, Inc. In the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Civil Action No. 04-CV-1849-MSK-OE, filed June 24, 2005] See Quackwatch for additional information about "NICO."

California acupuncture board may be abolished. The Schwarzenegger administration and some Democratic legislators are moving to abolish the state board that regulates acupuncturists, saying that the board has been more concerned with promoting acupuncture than with protecting patient safety. [Rau J. Board needles over patient safety. Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2005] Next year, unless the state legislature renews it, the board will automatically expire and the California Department of Consumer Affairs will assume responsibility for its activities. The move to abolish is supported by a 2004 report by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state panel that evaluates government matters for lawmakers. The report concluded that board's public educational materials go "beyond the accepted research findings" by stating that acupuncture can treat migraines, sinusitis, the common cold, tonsillitis, asthma, inflammation of the eyes, addictions, myopia, duodenal ulcer and other gastrointestinal disorders, trigeminal neuralgia, Meniere’s disease, tennis elbow, paralysis from stroke, speech aphasia, sciatica, osteoarthritis., rheumatoid conditions, pain management, various addictions, mental disorders, and AIDS. The commission stated that such claims are "of particular concern given that the mission of the Acupuncture Board is to protect consumers, not to sell the public on alternative health care treatments." [Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Medicine Framework. Little Hoover Commission, September 30, 2004]

Unlicensed Rhode Island naturopath may face criminal prosecution. The Rhode Island Department of Health has suspended the health care practice of John E. Curran for falsely portraying himself as a physician and naturopath. Curran has operated as the Rhode Island Health Aid in Cranston, Rhode Island and the Northeastern Institute for Advance Natural Healing in Providence, Rhode Island. For several years, his now-defunct Web site stated 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 claimed that he was "certified" by Brown University Medical School, Duke University Medical School, and Harvard University Medical School. However: (a) none of his "degrees" came 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. In January 2005, an FDA criminal investigator summarized information from five of Curran's former patients and two government agents who posed as patients. Subsequently, government agents raided, closed, and confiscated equipment and records from Curran’s office. Documents in the case suggest that Curran is likely to be prosecuted for mail and wire fraud. Naturowatch has additional information and links to the government reports.

Australian chelation advocate disciplined. The Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria has concluded that Dr. Robert Bruce Allen engaged in serious unprofessional misconduct by failing to adequately manage the treatment of a patient with coronary artery disease who died in 1999. The patient was resistant to standard medical care, but the Board concluded that Allen had failed to adequately communicate the importance of taking aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs and had failed to document any such communication in his records. The Board ordered Allen to undergo counseling in the appropriate treatment of patients with coronary artery disease. [Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria. Reasons for decision. Re: Dr Robert Bruce Allen (2005) MPBV 7. May 3, 2005]

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This page was posted on June 28, 2005.